Ichthyophthirius multifiliis is a ciliated protozoan parasite and is known to infect many freshwater teleosts. Characterizing the immune system in epithelial tissues, where the parasites penetrate and settle, is key to understanding host–parasite interactions. This study examined local immune responses in vivo to the infective stage (theront and trophont) of the parasites using intra-fin administration, which has been developed to analyze in vivo immune responses using fish fin. CD8α+ and CD4+ T-cell compositions were increased significantly in the fin cavity injected with theront or trophont antigens. The expression of GATA-3 and T-bet mRNA, which regulate differentiation of helper T-cells, was upregulated significantly in leukocytes from the trophont antigen–injected site. In contrast, the percentages of macrophages and neutrophils, which are innate immunity components, were decreased significantly in the injection sites. These results suggest that I. multifiliis antigens inhibit the migration of macrophages and neutrophils, and T-cells are the first responders to I. multifiliis. Thus, to better understand the interaction of host immunity and I. multifiliis, further studies should focus on exploring the inhibitory factors from I. multifiliis or examining innate functions of teleost T-cells.
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