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J Immunol. 2001 Jun 15;166(12):7033-41.

Infection of human macrophages and dendritic cells with Mycobacterium tuberculosis induces a differential cytokine gene expression that modulates T cell response.

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Laboratories of. Immunology and Bacteriology and Medical Mycology, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy. Department of Virology, National Public Health Institute, Helsinki, Finland.


Macrophages and dendritic cells (DC) play an essential role in the initiation and maintenance of immune response to pathogens. To analyze early interactions between Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) and immune cells, human peripheral blood monocyte-derived macrophages (MDM) and monocyte-derived dendritic cells (MDDC) were infected with Mtb. Both cells were found to internalize the mycobacteria, resulting in the activation of MDM and maturation of MDDC as reflected by enhanced expression of several surface Ags. After Mtb infection, the proinflammatory cytokines TNF-alpha, IL-1, and IL-6 were secreted mainly by MDM. As regards the production of IFN-gamma-inducing cytokines, IL-12 and IFN-alpha, was seen almost exclusively from infected MDDC, while IL-18 was secreted preferentially by macrophages. Moreover, Mtb-infected MDM also produce the immunosuppressive cytokine IL-10. Because IL-10 is a potent inhibitor of IL-12 synthesis from activated human mononuclear cells, we assessed the inhibitory potential of this cytokine using soluble IL-10R. Neutralization of IL-10 restored IL-12 secretion from Mtb-infected MDM. In line with these findings, supernatants from Mtb-infected MDDC induced IFN-gamma production by T cells and enhanced IL-18R expression, whereas supernatants from MDM failed to do that. Neutralization of IFN-alpha, IL-12, and IL-18 activity in Mtb-infected MDDC supernatants by specific Abs suggested that IL-12 and, to a lesser extent, IFN-alpha and IL-18 play a significant role in enhancing IFN-gamma synthesis by T cells. During Mtb infection, macrophages and DC may have different roles: macrophages secrete proinflammatory cytokines and induce granulomatous inflammatory response, whereas DC are primarily involved in inducing antimycobacterial T cell immune response.

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