Natural killer cell are recruited during pulmonary tuberculosis and ex-vivo, their response to mycobacteria vary between healthy human donors in association with KIR haplotype

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Humans vary widely in their susceptibility to tuberculosis. While only a minority will progress to disease, the majority of healthy individuals exposed to Mycobacterium tuberculosis mount an immune response that can clear or contain the infection in a quiescent form. Using immunofluorescence on human clinical samples, we identified natural killer (NK) cells infiltrating granulomatous pulmonary lesions during active disease. In order to compare the NK cell ability to react to free mycobacteria in the context of tuberculosis infection and Mycobacterium bovis BCG vaccination, NK cells were isolated from the peripheral blood of anonymous healthy human donors, and stimulated with M. tuberculosis H37Rv or M. bovis BCG. Extracellular M. tuberculosis and M. bovis BCG could equally trigger the release of IFNγ and TNFα from NK cells in the presence of IL-2. However, we found that this response varied 1000-fold between individuals (n = 52), with differences in KIR haplotype providing a significant criterion to distinguish between low and high responders. Our findings suggest that variations at the KIR locus and therefore of the NK cell repertoire may affect cytokine production in response to mycobacteria and we propose that this innate variability couldsustain different levels of susceptibility to M. tuberculosis infection.

Journal details

Volume 14
Issue number 11
Pages 1734-1744
Publication date


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