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Am J Pathol. 2012 Aug;181(2):508-14. doi: 10.1016/j.ajpath.2012.05.009. Epub 2012 Jun 19.

Activated B cells in the granulomas of nonhuman primates infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

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Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15261, USA.

Erratum in

  • Am J Pathol. 2012 Nov;181(5):1889.


In an attempt to contain Mycobacterium tuberculosis, host immune cells form a granuloma as a physical and immunological barrier. To date, the contribution of humoral immunity, including antibodies and specific functions of B cells, to M. tuberculosis infection in humans remains largely unknown. Recent studies in mice show that humoral immunity can alter M. tuberculosis infection outcomes. M. tuberculosis infection in cynomolgus macaques recapitulates essentially all aspects of human tuberculosis. As a first step toward understanding the importance of humoral immunity to control of M. tuberculosis infection in primates, we characterized the B-cell and plasma-cell populations in infected animals and found that B cells are present primarily in clusters within the granuloma. The B-cell clusters are in close proximity to peripheral node addressin-positive cells and contain cells positive for Ki-67, a proliferation marker. Granuloma B cells also express CXCR5 and have elevated HLA-DR expression. Tissues containing M. tuberculosis bacilli had higher levels of M. tuberculosis-specific IgG, compared with uninvolved tissue from the same monkeys. Plasma cells detected within the granuloma produced mycobacteria-specific antibodies. Together, these data demonstrate that B cells are present and actively secreting antibodies specific for M. tuberculosis antigens at the site of infection, including lung granulomas and thoracic lymph nodes. These antibodies likely have the capacity to modulate local control of infection in tissues.

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