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PLoS Pathog. 2011 Mar;7(3):e1001307. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1001307. Epub 2011 Mar 3.

Human macrophage responses to clinical isolates from the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex discriminate between ancient and modern lineages.

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Mycobacterial Research Division, MRC National Institute for Medical Research, London, United Kingdom.


The aim of the present study was to determine whether there is a correlation between phylogenetic relationship and inflammatory response amongst a panel of clinical isolates representative of the global diversity of the human Mycobacterium tuberculosis Complex (MTBC). Measurement of cytokines from infected human peripheral blood monocyte-derived macrophages revealed a wide variation in the response to different strains. The same pattern of high or low response to individual strains was observed for different pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, and was conserved across multiple human donors. Although each major phylogenetic lineage of MTBC included strains inducing a range of cytokine responses, we found that overall inflammatory phenotypes differed significantly across lineages. In particular, comparison of evolutionarily modern lineages demonstrated a significant skewing towards lower early inflammatory response. The differential response to ancient and modern lineages observed using GM-CSF derived macrophages was also observed in autologous monocyte-derived dendritic cells and murine bone marrow-derived macrophages, but not in human unfractionated peripheral blood mononuclear cells. We hypothesize that the reduced immune responses to modern lineages contribute to more rapid disease progression and transmission, which might be a selective advantage in the context of expanding human populations. In addition to the lineage effects, the large strain-to-strain variation in innate immune responses elicited by MTBC will need to be considered in tuberculosis vaccine development.

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