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Tuberculosis Therapy Modifies the Cytokine Profile, Maturation State, and Expression of Inhibitory Molecules on Mycobacterium tuberculosis-Specific CD4+ T-Cells



Little is known about the expression of inhibitory molecules cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen-4 (CTLA-4) and programmed-death-1 (PD-1) on Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb)-specific CD4 T-cells and how their expression is impacted by TB treatment.


Cryopreserved PBMCs from HIV-TB co-infected and TB mono-infected patients with untreated and treated tuberculosis (TB) disease were stimulated for six hours with PPD and stained. Using polychromatic flow cytometry, we characterized the differentiation state, cytokine profile, and inhibitory molecule expression on PPD-specific CD4 T-cells.


In our HIV-TB co-infected cohort, TB treatment increased the proportion of PPD-specific CD4 T-cells co-producing IFN-γ+IL-2+TNF-α+ and IFN-γ+IL-2+ (p = 0.0004 and p = 0.0002, respectively) while decreasing the proportion of PPD-specific CD4 T-cells co-producing IFN-γ+MIP1-β+TNF-α+ and IFN-γ+MIP1-β+. The proportion of PPD-specific CD4 T-cells expressing an effector memory phenotype decreased (63.6% vs 51.6%, p = 0.0015) while the proportion expressing a central memory phenotype increased (7.8% vs. 21.7%, p = 0.001) following TB treatment. TB treatment reduced the proportion of PPD-specific CD4 T-cells expressing CTLA-4 (72.4% vs. 44.3%, p = 0.0005) and PD-1 (34.5% vs. 29.2%, p = 0.03). Similar trends were noted in our TB mono-infected cohort.


TB treatment alters the functional profile of Mtb-specific CD4 T-cells reflecting shifts towards a less differentiated maturational profile and decreases PD-1 and CTLA-4 expression. These could serve as markers of reduced mycobacterial burden. Further study is warranted.

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