Physiol. Res. 52: 235-242, 2003

Apoptotic DNA Alterations in Pig Leukocytes After Phagocytosis of Bacteria are Linked to Maturation of the Immune System


1Institute of Animal Physiology and Genetics, Academy of Sciences, 2Institute of Microbiology, Faculty of Science, Masaryk University and 3Institute of Physiology, Veterinary and Pharmaceutical University, Brno, Czech Republic

Received March 19, 2002
Accepted June 14, 2002

The effect of phagocytosis of living bacteria on apoptotic DNA changes was examined in pig leukocytes in relation to immune system maturation. Blood samples of pigs (aged 6, 12 and 18 weeks) were cultivated with a suspension of bacterial cells Salmonella typhimurium LB 5000 at 37 C. In the experimental groups, killed bacteria and microspheric particles were used to detect the influence of the phagocytic process. Phagocytic activity and index were determined in each sample by means of microspheric particles. The ability to kill engulfed microbes (bactericidal capacity) was estimated from the decrease in bacterial colony-forming units (CFU). Samples of cultured cells were taken for DNA analysis at given intervals. DNA ladder assay was used for qualitative apoptotic DNA break detection and the TUNEL AP test was employed for quantification of apoptosis. In 18-week-old animals, spontaneous DNA degradation was observed in the control group without phagocytosis after 8 h. In contrast, cells cultivated with microspheric particles or killed bacteria became apoptotic after 4 h. The rate of apoptotic DNA degradation was decreased in the group exposed to living bacteria. This prolonged survival of phagocytes was also detected in 12-week-old animals, but not at 6 weeks of age. These findings were supported by the ability of phagocytes in 6-week-old animals to engulf microbes, but their killing (bactericidal) ability was significantly decreased in comparison with other stages of immune system maturation. These results suggest that the process of phagocytosis itself is accompanied by activation of the apoptotic program in phagocytic cells of the pig immune system, but the presence of phagocyted living bacteria can delay this activation. The prolonged survival of short-lived cells was only observed in later phases of immune system maturation.

Key words
Apoptosis • Phagocytosis • Ontogenesis • Pig leukocytes

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© 2003 by the Institute of Physiology, Czech Academy of Sciences