Apoptosis inhibitor expressed by macrophages (AIM) inhibits apoptosis of CD4(+)CD8(+) (CD4/CD8) double-positive thymocytes, and supports the viability of these cells on the thymic selection. However, pleiotropic functions of AIM have been suggested. In this study, heat-killed Corynebacterium parvum (C. parvum) was injected into mice carrying the homozygous mutation (AIM(-/-)) and wild-type (AIM(+/+)) mice, to investigate the role of AIM in the formation of hepatic granulomas. In AIM(-/-) mice, the size and the number of hepatic granulomas were larger, and the resorption of granulomas was more delayed than in AIM(+/+) mice. The production of interleukin-12 was more prominent in AIM(-/-) mice than in AIM(+/+) mice. In the liver of AIM(+/+) mice, expression of AIM messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) increased after C. parvum injection. In situ hybridization demonstrated that AIM mRNA was expressed in Kupffer cells and exudate macrophages in the liver, especially in granulomas. Larger numbers of T cells and natural killer T (NKT) cells underwent apoptosis in the granulomas of AIM(-/-) mice, suggesting that AIM prevents apoptosis of NKT cells and T cells in C. parvum-induced inflammation. Recombinant AIM (rAIM) protein significantly inhibited apoptosis of NKT cells and T cells obtained from C. parvum-stimulated livers in vitro. These results indicate that AIM functions to induce resistance to apoptosis within NKT cells and T cells, and supports the host defense in granulomatous inflammation.
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