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Clin Exp Immunol. 2000 Feb;119(2):270-9.

Identification of distinct lymphocyte subsets responding to subcellular fractions of Mycobacterium bovis bacille calmette-Guérin (BCG).

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Dipartimento di Patologia Sperimentale, Biotecnologie Mediche, Infettivologia ed Epidemiologia, University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy.


In order to investigate the ability of Mycobacterium bovis BCG vaccination to induce immune responses toward different classes of mycobacterial antigens and the cell populations involved in such responses, proliferation of distinct human lymphocyte subsets from BCG-vaccinated donors in response to different subcellular fractions of BCG was analysed and compared with that of not sensitized subjects. Proliferation of different cell subsets was evaluated by flow cytometric determination of bromodeoxyuridine incorporated into DNA of dividing cells and simultaneous identification of cell surface markers. Although a certain degree of variability was observed among different donors, after 6 days of in vitro stimulation BCG-vaccinated subjects displayed, as a mean, a stronger blastogenic response to all the classes of antigens compared with non-sensitized ones. PPD, culture filtrates and membrane antigens induced a predominant proliferation of CD4+ T cells. In contrast, preparations enriched in cytosolic antigens elicited strong proliferation of gammadelta+ T cells which, as a mean, represented 55% of the proliferating cells. Although to a lesser extent, proliferation of gammadelta+ T cells was also elicited by preparations enriched in membrane and cell wall antigens. In response to the latter preparation proliferation of CD4+ T cells and CD16+/CD3- (natural killer (NK)) cells was observed, as well. In particular, cell wall antigens were found to induce significantly higher levels of proliferation of NK cells compared with all the other classes of antigens.

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