Depletion of regulatory T cells decreases cardiac parasitosis and inflammation in experimental Chagas disease

Kevin M. Bonney, Joann M. Taylor, Edward B. Thorp, Conrad L. Epting, David M. Engman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Infection with the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi may lead to a potentially fatal cardiomyopathy known as Chagas heart disease. This disease is characterized by infiltration of the myocardium by mononuclear cells, including CD4+ T cells, together with edema, myofibrillary destruction, and fibrosis. A multifaceted systemic immune response develops that ultimately keeps parasitemia and tissue parasitosis low. T helper 1 and other pro-inflammatory T cell responses are effective at keeping levels of T. cruzi low in tissues and blood, but they may also lead to tissue inflammation when present chronically. The mechanism by which the inflammatory response is regulated in T. cruzi-infected individuals is complex, and the specific roles that Th17 and T regulatory (Treg) cells may play in that regulation are beginning to be elucidated. In this study, we found that depletion of Treg cells in T. cruzi-infected mice leads to reduced cardiac parasitosis and inflammation, accompanied by an augmented Th1 response early in the course of infection. This is followed by a downregulation of the Th1 response and increased Th17 response late in infection. The effect of Treg cell depletion on the Th1 and Th17 cells is not observed in mice immunized with T. cruzi in adjuvant. This suggests that Treg cells specifically regulate Th1 and Th17 cell responses during T. cruzi infection and may also be important for modulating parasite clearance and inflammation in the myocardium of T. cruzi-infected individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1167-1178
Number of pages12
JournalParasitology Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2015


  • Chagas disease
  • Immunoregulation
  • Myocarditis
  • Trypanosoma cruzi

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science
  • Infectious Diseases
  • General Veterinary
  • Parasitology


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