Gestational attenuation of Lyme arthritis is mediated by progesterone and IL-4

M. H. Moro, J. Bjornsson, E. V. Marietta, E. K. Hofmeister, J. J. Germer, E. Bruinsma, C. S. David, D. H. Persing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Infection of different strains of laboratory mice with the agent of Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, results in arthritis, the severity of which has been correlated with the dominance of Th1 cytokines. In this study, we demonstrate that changes in B. burgdorferi-specific immunologic responses associated with pregnancy can alter the outcome of Lyme arthritis in mice. Whereas nonpregnant female C3H mice consistently developed severe Lyme arthritis, pregnant mice had a marked reduction in arthritis severity that was associated with a slight reduction in IFN-γ and markedly increased levels of IL-4 production by B. burgdorferi-specific T cells. Similar reductions in arthritis severity and patterns of cytokine production were observed in nonpregnant, progesterone-implanted mice. Ab neutralization of IL-4 in progesterone-implanted mice resulted in severe arthritis. Our results are consistent with the known shift toward Th2 cytokine expression at the maternal-fetal interface, and are the first to show a pregnancy-related therapeutic effect in an infectious model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7404-7409
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 15 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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