Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Activation by Benzo[a]pyrene Prevents Development of Septic Shock and Fatal Outcome in a Mouse Model of Systemic Salmonella enterica Infection
This study focused on immunomodulatory effects of aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) activation through benzo[a]pyrene (BaP) during systemic bacterial infection. Using a well-established mouse model of systemic Salmonella enterica (S.E.) infection, we studied the influence of BaP on the cellular and humoral immune response and the outcome of disease. BaP exposure significantly reduced mortality, which is mainly caused by septic shock. Surprisingly, the bacterial burden in BaP-exposed surviving mice was significantly higher compared to non-exposed mice. During the early phase of infection (days 1–3 post-infection (p.i.)), the transcription of proinflammatory factors (i.e., IL-12, IFN-γ, TNF-α, IL-1β, IL-6, IL-18) was induced faster under BaP exposure. Moreover, BaP supported the activity of antigen-presenting cells (i.e., CD64 (FcγRI), MHC II, NO radicals, phagocytosis) at the site of infection. However, early in infection, the anti-inflammatory cytokines IL-10 and IL-22 were also locally and systemically upregulated in BaP-exposed S.E.-infected mice. BaP-exposure resulted in long-term persistence of salmonellae up to day 90 p.i., which was accompanied by significantly elevated S.E.-specific antibody responses (i.e., IgG1, IgG2c). In summary, these data suggest that BaP-induced AhR activation is capable of preventing a fatal outcome of systemic S.E. infection, but may result in long-term bacterial persistence, which, in turn, may support the development of chronic inflammation.