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HIV skews the lineage-defining transcriptional profile of Mycobacterium tuberculosis-specific CD4+ T cells

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posted on 14.09.2020 by Catherine Riou, Natalie Strickland, Andreia P Soares, Björn Corleis, Douglas S Kwon, E John Wherry, Robert J Wilkinson, Wendy A Burgers
HIV-infected persons are at greater risk of developing tuberculosis (TB) even before profound CD4 loss occurs, suggesting that HIV alters CD4(+) T cell functions capable of containing bacterial replication. An effective immune response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis most likely relies on the development of a balanced CD4 response, in which distinct CD4(+) Th subsets act in synergy to control the infection. To define the diversity of M. tuberculosis-specific CD4(+) Th subsets and determine whether HIV infection impacts such responses, the expression of lineage-defining transcription factors T-bet, Gata3, RORγt, and Foxp3 was measured in M. tuberculosis-specific CD4(+) T cells in HIV-uninfected (n = 20) and HIV-infected individuals (n = 20) with latent TB infection. Our results show that, upon 5-d restimulation in vitro, M. tuberculosis-specific CD4(+) T cells from healthy individuals have the ability to exhibit a broad spectrum of Th subsets, defined by specific patterns of transcription factor coexpression. These transcription factor profiles were skewed in HIV-infected individuals where the proportion of T-bet(high)Foxp3(+) M. tuberculosis-specific CD4(+) T cells was significantly decreased (p = 0.002) compared with HIV-uninfected individuals, a change that correlated inversely with HIV viral load (p = 0.0007) and plasma TNF-α (p = 0.027). Our data demonstrate an important balance in Th subset diversity defined by lineage-defining transcription factor coexpression profiles that is disrupted by HIV infection and suggest a role for HIV in impairing TB immunity by altering the equilibrium of M. tuberculosis-specific CD4(+) Th subsets.

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