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Cytokine. 2008 Aug;43(2):143-8. doi: 10.1016/j.cyto.2008.05.002. Epub 2008 Jul 7.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis-specific CD4+, IFNgamma+, and TNFalpha+ multifunctional memory T cells coexpress GM-CSF.

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Department of Immunology, Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, Charit├ęplatz 1, 10117 Berlin, Germany.


Multifunctional T cells expressing several cytokines in parallel are thought to play a crucial role in protection against different infections. To characterize T cell cytokine patterns associated with disease and protection in Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection we determined the expression of IFNgamma, IL-2, TNFalpha, and GM-CSF in T cell subpopulations from children with tuberculosis (TB) and healthy latently M. tuberculosis-infected children (LTBI) after short-term in vitro restimulation. We identified CD4(+) effector memory T cells (T(EM)) as the major source of all measured cytokines after antigen-specific restimulation. T(EM) from children with TB expressed higher proportions of IFNgamma, TNFalpha, and IL-2 after Mtb restimulation while no differences were detected for GM-CSF between both study groups. GM-CSF secretion strongly depended on antigen-specific stimulation. Analyses of multiple cytokine patterns revealed that the majority of GM-CSF-positive M. tuberculosis-specific memory T cells coexpressed IFNgamma and TNFalpha therefore showing a characteristic feature of multifunctional T cells. We conclude that children with active TB possess higher proportions of IFNgamma-, TNFalpha-, and/or IL-2-positive T(EM) than children with LTBI while GM-CSF coexpression reveals a novel subpopulation within CD4(+) memory T cells not increased in children with active TB.

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