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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Jan 6;95(1):270-5.

Human cytolytic and interferon gamma-secreting CD8+ T lymphocytes specific for Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

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Molecular Immunology Group, Institute of Molecular Medicine, Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Oxford, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford OX3 9DU, United Kingdom.


Protective immunity to Mycobacterium tuberculosis is poorly understood, but mounting evidence, at least in animal models, implicates major histocompatibility complex class I-restricted CD8+ T cells as an essential component. By using a highly sensitive assay for single cell interferon gamma release, we screened an array of M. tuberculosis antigen-derived peptides congruent with HLA class I allele-specific motifs. We identified CD8+ T cells specific for epitopes in the early secretory antigenic target 6 during active tuberculosis, after clinical recovery and in healthy contacts. Unrestimulated cells exhibited peptide-specific interferon gamma secretion, whereas lines or clones recognized endogenously processed antigen and showed cytolytic activity. These results provide direct evidence for the involvement of CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes in host defense against M. tuberculosis in humans and support current attempts to generate protective cytotoxic T lymphocyte responses against M. tuberculosis by vaccination.

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