The importance of endogenous interleukin 1 (IL-1) in resistance to Pneumocystis carinii infection was examined in a SCID mouse model. Naturally acquired pulmonary infection of P. carinii in SCID mice was completely cleared by reconstitution of the infected mice with immunocompetent spleen cells. IL-1 activity in the lung homogenate supernatant of these mice increased significantly after reconstitution and returned to baseline level after the clearance of P. carinii. Treatment of reconstituted SCID mice with 35F5, a monoclonal antibody against murine type I IL-1R almost completely inhibited the clearance of P. carinii. In contrast, treatment with control rat immunoglobulin G had no detectable effect. Further study revealed that for the complete clearance of P. carinii, IL-1 must be present at the early stage of immune responses induced by reconstitution, since clearance could be blocked by a single injection of 35F5 into SCID mice at 2 d, but not at either 8 or 13 d postreconstitution. Furthermore, pulmonary recruitment of neutrophils, macrophages, and lymphocytes was significantly inhibited in mice that received 35F5 treatment. These findings strongly suggest that, in reconstituted SCID mice, endogenous IL-1 is important in host resistance to P. carinii infection and that IL-1 may function early in the host response possibly by the recruitment of inflammatory cells into the lungs.

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