In latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) spread of the bacteria is contained by a persistent immune response, which includes CD4(+) T cells as important contributors. In this study we show that TB-specific CD4(+) T cells have a characteristic chemokine expression signature (CCR6(+)CXCR3(+)CCR4(-)), and that the overall number of these cells is significantly increased in LTBI donors compared with healthy subjects. We have comprehensively characterized the transcriptional signature of CCR6(+)CXCR3(+)CCR4(-) cells and found significant differences to conventional Th1, Th17, and Th2 cells, but no major changes between healthy and LTBI donors. CCR6(+)CXCR3(+)CCR4(-) cells display lineage-specific signatures of both Th1 and Th17 cells, but also have a unique gene expression program, including genes associated with susceptibility to TB, enhanced T cell activation, enhanced cell survival, and induction of a cytotoxic program akin to CTL cells. Overall, the gene expression signature of CCR6(+)CXCR3(+)CCR4(-) cells reveals characteristics important for controlling latent TB infections.
Tuberculosis (TB), caused by infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB), represents an important cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide for which an improved vaccine and immunodiagnostics are urgently needed. CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells play an important role in host defense to TB. Definition of the antigens recognized by these T cells is critical for improved understanding of the immunobiology of TB and for development of vaccines and diagnostics. Herein, the antigens and epitopes recognized by classically HLA class I- and II-restricted CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells in humans infected with MTB are reviewed. Immunodominant antigens and epitopes have been defined using approaches targeting particular TB proteins or classes of proteins and by genome-wide discovery approaches. Antigens and epitopes recognized by classically restricted CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells show extensive breadth and diversity in MTB-infected humans.
We have recently described the first true genome-wide screen for CD4(+) T-cell reactivity directed against Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) in latent TB-infected individuals. The approach relied on predictions of HLA-binding capacity for a panel of DR, DP, and DQ alleles representative of those most commonly expressed in the general population, coupled with high throughput ELISPOT assays. The results identified hundreds of novel epitopes and antigens, and documented the novel observation that T cells in latent MTB infection are confined to the CXCR3(+)CCR6(+) phenotype and largely directed against three antigenic "islands" within the MTB genome. In parallel, we have made generally available to the scientific community the technical approaches and reagents developed in the process, such as motifs, algorithms, and binding assays for several common HLA class II alleles, and a panel of single allele HLA class II transfected cell lines representative of the most frequent specificities in the general population. Recent efforts have been focused on characterization of epitopes and antigens recognized by patients with active TB and individuals vaccinated with BCG, with the aim of providing the first systematic evaluation of the overlap between latent, active, and BCG cohorts. The definition of a broad range of epitopes restricted by common HLA molecules, will facilitate development of diagnostic reagents, allow a rigorous evaluation of T-cell responses associated with TB infection in humans, and enable the evaluation of the immunogenicity of different vaccine candidates. Furthermore, it might suggest new candidates for vaccine and diagnostic development.
Brucella melitensis, one of the causative agents of human brucellosis, causes acute, chronic, and relapsing infection. While T cell immunity in brucellosis has been extensively studied in mice, no recognized human T cell epitopes that might provide new approaches to classifying and prognosticating B. melitensis infection have ever been delineated. Twenty-seven pools of 500 major histocompatibility complex class II (MHC-II) restricted peptides were created by computational prediction of promiscuous MHC-II CD4(+) T cell derived from the top 50 proteins recognized by IgG in human sera on a genome level B. melitensis protein microarray. Gamma interferon (IFN-?) and interleukin-5 (IL-5) enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) analyses were used to quantify and compare Th1 and Th2 responses of leukapheresis-obtained peripheral blood mononuclear cells from Peruvian subjects cured after acute infection (n = 9) and from patients who relapsed (n = 5). Four peptide epitopes derived from 3 B. melitensis proteins (BMEI 1330, a DegP/HtrA protease; BMEII 0029, type IV secretion system component VirB5; and BMEII 0691, a predicted periplasmic binding protein of a peptide transport system) were found repeatedly to produce significant IFN-? ELISPOT responses in both acute-infection and relapsing patients; none of the peptides distinguished the patient groups. IL-5 responses against the panel of peptides were insignificant. These experiments are the first to systematically identify B. melitensis MHC-II-restricted CD4(+) T cell epitopes recognized by the human immune response, with the potential for new approaches to brucellosis diagnostics and understanding the immunopathogenesis related to this intracellular pathogen.
The vast majority of currently licensed human vaccines work on the basis of long-term protective antibody responses. It is now conceivable that an antibody-dependent HIV vaccine might be possible, given the discovery of HIV broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) in some HIV-infected individuals. However, these antibodies are difficult to develop and have characteristics indicative of a high degree of affinity maturation in germinal centers (GCs). CD4? T follicular helper (Tfh) cells are specialized for B cell help and necessary for GCs. Therefore, the development of HIV bnAbs might depend on Tfh cells. Here, we identified in normal individuals a subpopulation of circulating memory PD-1?CXCR5?CD4? T cells that are resting memory cells most related to bona fide GC Tfh cells by gene expression profile, cytokine profile, and functional properties. Importantly, the frequency of these cells correlated with the development of bnAbs against HIV in a large cohort of HIV? individuals.
T cells play an important role in the pathogenesis of allergic diseases. However, the proteins considered as potential immunogens of allergenic T-cell responses have traditionally been limited to those that induce IgE responses. Timothy grass (TG) pollen is a well-studied inhaled allergen for which major IgE-reactive allergens have also been shown to trigger T helper 2 (Th2) responses. Here we examined whether other TG pollen proteins are recognized by Th2 responses independently of IgE reactivity. A TG pollen extract was analyzed by 2D gel electrophoresis and IgE/IgG immunoblots using pooled sera from allergic donors. Mass spectrometry of selected protein spots in combination with de novo sequencing of the whole TG pollen transcriptome identified 93 previously undescribed proteins for further study, 64 of which were not targeted by IgE. Predicted MHC binding peptides from the previoulsy undescribed TG proteins were screened for T-cell reactivity in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from allergic donors. Strong IL-5 production was detected in response to peptides from several of the previously undescribed proteins, most of which were not targeted by IgE. Responses against the dominant undescribed epitopes were associated with the memory T-cell subset and could even be detected directly ex vivo after Th2 cell enrichment. These findings demonstrate that a combined unbiased transcriptomic, proteomic, and immunomic approach identifies a greatly broadened repertoire of protein antigens targeted by T cells involved in allergy pathogenesis. The discovery of proteins that induce Th2 cells but are not IgE reactive may allow the development of safer immunotherapeutic strategies.
An understanding of the immunological footprint of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) CD4 T cell recognition is still incomplete. Here we report that human Th1 cells specific for MTB are largely contained in a CXCR3(+)CCR6(+) memory subset and highly focused on three broadly immunodominant antigenic islands, all related to bacterial secretion systems. Our results refute the notion that secreted antigens act as a decoy, since both secreted proteins and proteins comprising the secretion system itself are targeted by a fully functional T cell response. In addition, several novel T cell antigens were identified which can be of potential diagnostic use, or as vaccine antigens. These results underline the power of a truly unbiased, genome-wide, analysis of CD4 MTB recognition based on the combined use of epitope predictions, high throughput ELISPOT, and T cell libraries using PBMCs from individuals latently infected with MTB.
Classic ways to determine MHC restriction involve inhibition with locus-specific antibodies and antigen presentation assays with panels of cell lines matched or mismatched at the various loci of interest. However, these determinations are often complicated by T cell epitope degeneracy and promiscuity. We describe a selection of 46 HLA DR, DQ, and DP specificities that provide worldwide population (phenotypic) coverage of almost 90 % at each locus, and account for over 66 % of all genes at each locus. This panel afforded coverage of at least four HLA class II alleles in over 95 % of the individuals in four study populations of diverse ethnicity from the USA and South Africa. Next, a panel of single HLA class II-transfected cell lines, corresponding to these 46 allelic variants was assembled, consisting of lines previously developed and 15 novel lines generated for the present study. The novel lines were validated by assessing their HLA class II expression by FACS analysis, the in vitro peptide binding activity of HLA molecules purified from the cell lines, and their antigen presenting capacity to T cell lines of known restriction. We also show that these HLA class II-transfected cell lines can be used to rapidly and unambiguously determine HLA restriction of epitopes recognized by an individual donor in a single experiment. This panel of lines will enable high throughput determination of HLA restriction, enabling better characterization of HLA class II-restricted T cell responses and facilitating the development of HLA tetrameric staining reagents.
Although cellular immunity to acute lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) infection has been well characterized in experimental studies in mice, the T cell response to this virus in humans is incompletely understood. Thus, we analyzed the breadths, magnitudes, and differentiation phenotypes of memory LCMV-specific CD8(+) and CD4(+) T cells in three human donors displaying a variety of disease outcomes after accidental needle stick injury or exposure to LCMV. Although only a small cohort of donors was analyzed at a single time point postinfection, several interesting observations were made. First, we were able to detect LCMV-specific CD8(+) and CD4(+) T cell responses directly ex vivo at 4 to 8 years after exposure, demonstrating the longevity of T cell memory in humans. Second, unlike in murine models of LCMV infection, we found that the breadths of memory CD8(+) and CD4(+) T cell responses were not significantly different from one another. Third, it seemed that the overall CD8(+) T cell response was augmented with increasing severity of disease, while the LCMV-specific CD4(+) T cell response magnitude was highly variable between the three different donors. Next, we found that LCMV-specific CD8(+) T cells in the three donors analyzed seemed to undergo an effector memory differentiation program distinct from that of CD4(+) T cells. Finally, the levels of expression of memory, costimulatory, and inhibitory receptors on CD8(+) and CD4(+) T cell subsets, in some instances, correlated with disease outcome. These data demonstrate for the first time LCMV-specific CD8(+) and CD4(+) T cells in infected humans and begin to provide new insights into memory T cell responses following an acute virus infection.
IL-1? is produced from inactive pro-IL-1? by activation of caspase-1 brought about by a multi-subunit protein platform called the inflammasome. Many bacteria can trigger inflammasome activity through flagellin activation of the host protein NLRC4. However, strains of the common human pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa lacking flagellin can still activate the inflammasome. We set out to identify what non-flagellin components could produce this activation. Using mass spectroscopy, we identified an inflammasome-activating factor from P. aeruginosa as pilin, the major component of the type IV bacterial pilus. Purified pilin introduced into mouse macrophages by liposomal delivery activated caspase-1 and led to secretion of mature IL-1?, as did recombinant pilin purified from Escherichia coli. This was dependent on caspase-1 but not on the host inflammasome proteins NLRC4, NLRP3 or ASC. Mutants of P. aeruginosa strain PA103 lacking pilin did not activate the inflammasome following infection of macrophages with live bacteria. Type III secretion remained intact in the absence of pili, showing this was not due to a lack of effector delivery. Our observations show pilin is a novel activator of the inflammasome in addition to flagellin and the recently described PrgJ protein family, the basal body rod component of the type III apparatus.
Many Gram-negative bacteria possess a type III secretion system (TTSS( paragraph sign)) that can activate the NLRC4 inflammasome, process caspase-1 and lead to secretion of mature IL-1beta. This is dependent on the presence of intracellular flagellin. Previous reports have suggested that this activation is independent of extracellular K(+) and not accompanied by leakage of K(+) from the cell, in contrast to activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome. However, non-flagellated strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa are able to activate NLRC4, suggesting that formation of a pore in the cell membrane by the TTSS apparatus may be sufficient for inflammasome activation. Thus, we set out to determine if extracellular K(+) influenced P. aeruginosa inflammasome activation. We found that raising extracellular K(+) prevented TTSS NLRC4 activation by the non-flagellated P. aeruginosa strain PA103DeltaUDeltaT at concentrations above 90 mm, higher than those reported to inhibit NLRP3 activation. Infection was accompanied by efflux of K(+) from a minority of cells as determined using the K(+)-sensitive fluorophore PBFI, but no formation of a leaky pore. We obtained exactly the same results following infection with Salmonella typhimurium, previously described as independent of extracellular K(+). The inhibitory effect of raised extracellular K(+) on NLRC4 activation thus reflects a requirement for a decrease in intracellular K(+) for this inflammasome component as well as that described for NLRP3.
Diagnosis of tuberculosis often relies on the ex vivo IFN-? release assays QuantiFERON-TB Gold In-Tube and T-SPOT.TB. However, understanding of the immunological mechanisms underlying their diagnostic use is still incomplete. Accordingly, we investigated T cell responses for the TB Ags included in the these assays and other commonly studied Ags: early secreted antigenic target 6 kDa, culture filtrate protein 10 kDa, Rv2031c, Rv2654c, and Rv1038c. PBMC from latently infected individuals were tested in ex vivo ELISPOT assays with overlapping peptides spanning the entirety of these Ags. We found striking variations in prevalence and magnitude of ex vivo reactivity, with culture filtrate protein 10 kDa being most dominant, followed by early secreted antigenic target 6 kDa and Rv2654c being virtually inactive. Rv2031c and Rv1038c were associated with intermediate patterns of reactivity. Further studies showed that low reactivity was not due to lack of HLA binding peptides, and high reactivity was associated with recognition of a few discrete dominant antigenic regions. Different donors recognized the same core sequence in a given epitope. In some cases, the identified epitopes were restricted by a single specific common HLA molecule (selective restriction), whereas in other cases, promiscuous restriction of the same epitope by multiple HLA molecules was apparent. Definition of the specific restricting HLA allowed to produce tetrameric reagents and showed that epitope-specific T cells recognizing either selectively or promiscuously restricted epitopes were predominantly T effector memory. In conclusion, these results highlight the feasibility of more clearly defined TB diagnostic reagent.
E. coli O157 carries two genes encoding the effector proteins NleH1 and NleH2 which are 87% identical. Despite the similarity between the proteins, the promoter regions upstream of the genes encoding the effectors are more divergent suggesting that the actual expression of the genes may be differentially regulated. This was tested by creating reporter fusions and examining their expression in different genetic backgrounds, media and on contact with host cells. The function of the proteins was also tested following transfection into host cells.
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