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Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2010 Sep 15;182(6):848-54. doi: 10.1164/rccm.201001-0083OC. Epub 2010 May 27.

Heparin-binding, hemagglutinin-specific IFN-gamma synthesis at the site of infection during active tuberculosis in humans.

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Laboratory of Vaccinology and Mucosal Immunity, Hôpital Brugmann, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium.



Tuberculosis (TB) remains a major cause of mortality. A better understanding of the immune responses to mycobacterial antigens may be helpful to develop improved vaccines and diagnostics.


The mycobacterial antigen heparin-binding hemagglutinin (HBHA) induces strong IFN-γ responses by circulating lymphocytes from subjects latently infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and low responses associated with CD4(+) regulatory T (Treg) cells in patients with TB. Here, we investigated HBHA-specific IFN-γ responses at the site of the TB disease.


Bronchoalveolar lavages, pleural fluids, and blood were prospectively collected from 61 patients with a possible diagnosis of pulmonary or pleural TB. HBHA-specific IFN-γ production was analyzed by flow cytometry and ELISA. The suppressive effect of pleural Treg cells was investigated by depletion experiments.


The percentages of HBHA-induced IFN-γ(+) alveolar and pleural lymphocytes were higher for pulmonary (P < 0.0001) and for pleural (P < 0.01) TB than for non-TB controls. Local CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells produced the HBHA-specific IFN-γ. This local secretion was not suppressed by Treg lymphocytes, contrasting with previously reported data on circulating lymphocytes.


Patients with TB display differential effector and regulatory T-cell responses to HBHA in local and circulating lymphocytes with a predominant effector CD4(+) and CD8(+) response locally, compared with a predominant Treg response among circulating lymphocytes. These findings may be helpful for the design of new vaccines against TB, and the detection of HBHA-specific T cells at the site of the infection may be a promising tool for the rapid diagnosis of active TB.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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