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J Pathol. 2007 Jan;211(1):76-85.

Langhans giant cells from M. tuberculosis-induced human granulomas cannot mediate mycobacterial uptake.

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Department Molecular Mechanisms of Mycobacterial Infections, IPBS, CNRS-UMR5089, Toulouse, France.


Tuberculosis is characterized by a tight interplay between Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M. tb) and host cells within granulomas. These cellular aggregates restrain M. tb spreading but do not kill all bacilli, which persist for years. A more detailed investigation of the interaction between M. tb and granuloma cells is needed to improve our understanding of this persistence and to explain the physiopathology of tuberculosis. In the present study, a recently developed in vitro human model of tuberculous granulomas has been used to analyse the modulation of granuloma cell differentiation by M. tb, in comparison to poorly virulent mycobacteria, which do not persist. It is reported that whilst all mycobacteria species induce granuloma formation, only M. tb triggers the differentiation of granuloma macrophages into very large multinucleated giant cells (MGCs) that are unable to mediate any bacterial uptake. This loss of function is not due to cell quiescence, as MGCs still display NADPH oxidase activity, but it correlates with decreased expression of phagocytosis receptors. This phenomenon is specific for the virulent species of M. tuberculosis complex, as poorly virulent species only induce the formation of small multinucleated cells (MCs) with conserved mycobacterial uptake ability, which never reach the MGC differentiation stage. The phenotype of MGCs thus strongly resembles mature dendritic cells with a loss of microbial uptake ability, despite conserved antigen presentation. In M. tb-induced granulomas, MGCs thus seem to be devoted to the destruction of bacilli that have been ingested in previous differentiation stages, ie in macrophages and MCs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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