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J Immunol. 2008 Dec 15;181(12):8595-603.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis-specific CD8+ T cells require perforin to kill target cells and provide protection in vivo.

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  • 1Division of Rheumatology, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Optimal immunity to Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection requires CD8(+) T cells, and several current Mtb vaccine candidates are being engineered to elicit enhanced CD8(+) T cell responses. However, the function of these T cells and the mechanism by which they provide protection is still unknown. We have previously shown that CD8(+) T cells specific for the mycobacterial Ags CFP10 and TB10.4 accumulate in the lungs of mice following Mtb infection and have cytolytic activity in vivo. In this study, we determine which cytolytic pathways are used by these CD8(+) T cells during Mtb infection. We find that Mtb-specific CD8(+) T cells lacking perforin have reduced cytolytic capacity in vivo. In the absence of perforin, the residual cytolytic activity is CD95 and TNFR dependent. This is particularly true in Mtb-infected lung tissue where disruption of both perforin and CD95 eliminates target cell lysis. Moreover, adoptive transfer of immune CD8(+) T cells isolated from wild-type, but not perforin-deficient mice, protect recipient mice from Mtb infection. We conclude that CD8(+) T cells elicited following Mtb infection use several cytolytic pathways in a hierarchical and compensatory manner dominated by perforin-mediated cytolysis. Finally, although several cytolytic pathways are available, adoptively transferred Mtb-specific CD8(+) T cells require perforin-mediated cytolysis to protect animals from infection. These data show that CD8(+) T cell-mediated protection during Mtb infection requires more than the secretion of IFN-gamma and specifically defines the CD8(+) cytolytic mechanisms utilized and required in vivo.

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