Characterization of Mycobacterium tuberculosis-specific cells using MHC class II tetramers reveals phenotypic differences related to HIV infection and tuberculosis disease

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A major challenge for the development of an effective vaccine against tuberculosis (TB) is that the attributes of protective CD4 T cell responses are still elusive for human TB. Infection with HIV type 1 is a major risk factor for TB, and a better understanding of HIV-induced alterations of -specific CD4 T cells that leads to failed host resistance may provide insight into protective T cell immunity to TB. A total of 86 participants from a TB-endemic setting, either HIV-infected or uninfected and with latent or active TB (aTB), were screened using -specific MHC class II tetramers. We examined the phenotype as well as function of ex vivo -specific tetramerCD4 T cells using flow cytometry. The numbers of -specific tetramerCD4 T cells were relatively well maintained in HIV-infected persons with aTB, despite severe immunodeficiency. However, although HIV-uninfected persons with latent TB infection exhibited ex vivo -specific CD4 T cells predominantly of a CXCR3CCR6CCR4 (Th1*) phenotype, aTB or HIV infection was associated with a contraction of this subset. Nevertheless, in individuals with aTB and/or HIV infection, circulating ex vivo -specific CD4 T cells did not display defects in exhaustion or polyfunctionality compared with healthy HIV-uninfected individuals with latent TB infection. Collectively, these data suggest that increased susceptibility to TB disease could be related to a loss of circulating Th1* CD4 T cells rather than major changes in the number or function of circulating CD4 T cells.

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Volume 199
Issue number 7
Pages 2440-2450
Available online
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