Tumor necrosis factor-α mediates the early pathology in Salmonella infection of the gastrointestinal tract

Judy W. Arnold, David W. Niesel, Charles R. Annable, Cynthia B. Hess, Maria Asuncion, Yang Ja Cho, Johnny W. Peterson, Gary R. Klimpel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Salmonella infection of the intestinal tract results in damage to the gut epithelium. While it is generally believed that bacteria and/or bacterial products account for this pathology, the role of host factors has not been explored. Using a ligated intestinal loop model, we investigated whether tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) could contribute to the tissue pathology associated with Salmonella infection. Intestinal segments infected with Salmonella typhimurium had high levels of fluid secretion as early as 6 h post bacterial infection. At this time point, low levels of TNF activity were also present in the fluid obtained from infected segments. At 20 h post-infection, high levels of TNF activity were present in fluids obtained from infected intestinal segments and was characterized as TNF-α by neutralization experiments using rabbit antisera to TNF-α. TNF-α production was further verified by Northern blot analysis using RNA obtained from cells eluted from the infected intestinal segments. In contrast, no TNF activity was found in fluid obtained from intestinal segments challenged with cholera toxin, which induces fluid secretion with little to no inflammatory response. Double labeling by in situ hybridization and immunocytochemistry revealed that macrophages in the lamina propria were producing the TNF-α mRNA. To investigate what role TNF-α might play in Salmonella-induced inflammation, intestinal segments were injected with recombinant mouse TNF-α (rTNF-α) or mice were pretreated with antibody to TNF-α or a control antibody prior to Salmonella infection. The histological profile of intestinal segments injected with rTNF-α appeared identical to segments infected with S. typhimurium. Further, pathology was completely eliminated in infected mice pretreated with antibody to TNF-α. These results document the production of TNF-α in the intestinal tract following S. typhimurium infection and show that the early pathology induced by Salmonella infection of the gastrointestinal tract is mediated by immune mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-227
Number of pages11
JournalMicrobial Pathogenesis
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • Intestine
  • Pathology
  • Salmonella typhimurium
  • TNF-α

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Infectious Diseases


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