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Infect Immun. 2002 Nov;70(11):6302-9.

Activation of NKT cells protects mice from tuberculosis.

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Division of Rheumatology, Immunology and Allergy, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


The T-cell immune response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis is critical in preventing clinical disease. While it is generally accepted that both major histocompatibility complex class I (MHC-I)-restricted CD8(+) and MHC-II-restricted CD4(+) T cells are important for the immune response to M. tuberculosis, the role of non-MHC-restricted T cells is still not clearly delineated. We have previously reported that CD1d(-/-) mice do not differ from CD1d(+/+) mice in their survival following infection with M. tuberculosis. We now show that, although CD1d-restricted NKT cells are not required for optimum immunity to M. tuberculosis, specific activation of NKT cells by the CD1d ligand alpha-galactosylceramide protects susceptible mice from tuberculosis. Treatment with alpha-galactosylceramide reduced the bacterial burden in the lungs, diminished tissue injury, and prolonged survival of mice following inoculation with virulent M. tuberculosis. The capacity of activated NKT cells to stimulate innate immunity and modulate the adaptive immune response to promote a potent antimicrobial immune response suggests that alpha-galactosylceramide administration could have a role in new strategies for the therapy of infectious diseases.

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