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Eur J Immunol. 2002 Nov;32(11):3050-8.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis subverts the differentiation of human monocytes into dendritic cells.

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Laboratorio di Batteriologia e Micologia Medica, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Roma, Italy.


Intracellular pathogens have developed strategies for evading elimination by the defenses of the host immune system. Here we describe an escape mechanism utilized by Mycobacterium tuberculosis that involves the interference with the generation of fully competent DC from monocytes. We show that monocytes infected with live M. tuberculosis differentiated into mature, CD83+ and CCR7+ DC (Mt-MoDC), but were characterized by a selective failure in the expression of the family of CD1 molecules. These cells also showed levels of MHC class II and CD80 (B7.1) that were reduced in comparison with LPS-matured DC. In addition, Mt-MoDC produced TNF-alpha and IL-10, but were unable to secrete IL-12. The generation of Mt-MoDC required the infection of monocytes with live M. tuberculosis, since infection with heat-killed bacteria partially abrogated the effects on monocyte differentiation. Interestingly, Mt-MoDC revealed an impaired antigen-presentation function as assessed by the reduced capability to induce proliferation of cord blood T lymphocytes. Further, naive T lymphocytes expanded by Mt-MoDC were unable to secrete cytokines, in particular IL-4 and IFN-gamma, suggesting that they could be ineffective in helping the macrophage-mediated killing of intracellular mycobacteria. Our results suggest that the interference with monocyte differentiation into fully competent DC is an evasion mechanism of M. tuberculosis that could contribute to its intracellular persistence by avoiding immune recognition.

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