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Infect Immun. 2016 Apr 22;84(5):1301-1311. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00083-16. Print 2016 May.

Effects of B Cell Depletion on Early Mycobacterium tuberculosis Infection in Cynomolgus Macaques.

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Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.
University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.
Department of Medicine and Microbiology and Immunology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York, USA.
Department of Pediatrics, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.
Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA


Although recent studies in mice have shown that components of B cell and humoral immunity can modulate the immune responses against Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the roles of these components in human and nonhuman primate infections are unknown. The cynomolgus macaque (Macaca fascicularis) model of M. tuberculosis infection closely mirrors the infection outcomes and pathology in human tuberculosis (TB). The present study used rituximab, an anti-CD20 antibody, to deplete B cells in M. tuberculosis-infected macaques to examine the contribution of B cells and humoral immunity to the control of TB in nonhuman primates during the acute phase of infection. While there was no difference in the overall pathology, disease profession, and clinical outcome between the rituximab-treated and untreated macaques in acute infection, analyzing individual granulomas revealed that B cell depletion resulted in altered local T cell and cytokine responses, increased bacterial burden, and lower levels of inflammation. There were elevated frequencies of T cells producing interleukin-2 (IL-2), IL-10, and IL-17 and decreased IL-6 and IL-10 levels within granulomas from B cell-depleted animals. The effects of B cell depletion varied among granulomas in an individual animal, as well as among animals, underscoring the previously reported heterogeneity of local immunologic characteristics of tuberculous granulomas in nonhuman primates. Taken together, our data clearly showed that B cells can modulate the local granulomatous response in M. tuberculosis-infected macaques during acute infection. The impact of these alterations on disease progression and outcome in the chronic phase remains to be determined.

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