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Infect Immun. Aug 1991; 59(8): 2737–2743.
PMCID: PMC258080

Human Mycobacterium tuberculosis-reactive CD4+ T-cell clones: heterogeneity in antigen recognition, cytokine production, and cytotoxicity for mononuclear phagocytes.


CD4+ T cells regulate the protective immune response which follows exposure to Mycobacterium tuberculosis by activating macrophages through the cytokines the CD4+ T cells secrete. In addition CD4+ T cells have been shown to be directly cytotoxic for antigen-pulsed mononuclear phagocytes (monocytes-macrophages). To explore the functional interaction between mycobacterial antigen-specific CD4+ T cells and mononuclear phagocytes further, CD4+ T-cell clones were derived from healthy purified protein derivative-positive individuals. Five T-cell clones were selected for detailed analysis. None responded to the purified recombinant or native mycobacterial antigens of 14, 19, 65, 71, and 30 (alpha-antigen/Ag6) kDa. However, the T-cell clones demonstrated heterogeneity in antigen recognition as measured by their Western blot (immunoblot) responses. Some T-cell clones made only interleukin 2, while others made only interleukin 4; all produced gamma interferon, although in differing amounts. Four of five T-cells clones were cytotoxic for purified protein derivative-pulsed monocytes at 1:1 and 10:1 effector-target cell ratios. When monocytes infected with live M. tuberculosis were used as targets, comparable levels of cytotoxicity were observed. The cytotoxicity was major histocompatibility complex class II restricted and inhibited by antibodies to ICAM-1 and LFA-1 and not by antibodies to tumor necrosis factor alpha, lymphotoxin, and gamma interferon. Cytotoxicity by CD4+ T cells for monocytes pulsed with mycobacterial antigens or infected with live M. tuberculosis is a common property of these cells and appears to be independent of the repertoire of lymphokines produced and not limited to recognition of defined mycobacterial heat shock proteins. Lysis of heavily infected mononuclear phagocytes may be one manner in which CD4+ T cells regulate host immune response to M. tuberculosis.

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