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PLoS One. 2009;4(5):e5528. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005528. Epub 2009 May 13.

Analysis of Mycobacterium tuberculosis-specific CD8 T-cells in patients with active tuberculosis and in individuals with latent infection.

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  • 1Dipartimento di Biopatologia e Metodologie Biomediche, Università di Palermo, Palermo, Italy.


CD8 T-cells contribute to control of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection, but little is known about the quality of the CD8 T-cell response in subjects with latent infection and in patients with active tuberculosis disease. CD8 T-cells recognizing epitopes from 6 different proteins of Mycobacterium tuberculosis were detected by tetramer staining. Intracellular cytokines staining for specific production of IFN-gamma and IL-2 was performed, complemented by phenotyping of memory markers on antigen-specific CD8 T-cells. The ex-vivo frequencies of tetramer-specific CD8 T-cells in tuberculous patients before therapy were lower than in subjects with latent infection, but increased at four months after therapy to comparable percentages detected in subjects with latent infection. The majority of CD8 T-cells from subjects with latent infection expressed a terminally-differentiated phenotype (CD45RA+CCR7(-)). In contrast, tuberculous patients had only 35% of antigen-specific CD8 T-cells expressing this phenotype, while containing higher proportions of cells with an effector memory- and a central memory-like phenotype, and which did not change significantly after therapy. CD8 T-cells from subjects with latent infection showed a codominance of IL-2+/IFN-gamma+ and IL-2(-)/IFN-gamma+ T-cell populations; interestingly, only the IL-2+/IFN-gamma+ population was reduced or absent in tuberculous patients, highly suggestive of a restricted functional profile of Mycobacterium tuberculosis-specific CD8 T-cells during active disease. These results suggest distinct Mycobacterium tuberculosis specific CD8 T-cell phenotypic and functional signatures between subjects which control infection (subjects with latent infection) and those who do not (patients with active disease).

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