Newborns and young infants are particularly susceptible to infections, including Mycobacterium
tuberculosis. Further, immunogenicity of vaccines against tuberculosis and other infectious diseases appears suboptimal early in life, compared with later in life. We hypothesized that developmental changes in innate immunity would underlie these observations.
To determine evolution of innate responses to mycobacteria early in life, whole blood from newborns, 10-week old and 36-week old infants was incubated with viable Mycobacterium bovis Bacille Calmette Guerin (BCG) or TLR ligands. Innate cell expression of cytokines and maturation markers was assessed, as well as activation of the pro-inflammatory NF-κB and MAPK signaling pathways.
BCG-induced production of pro-inflammatory cytokines TNF-α, IL-6 and IL-12p40 increased from the newborn period to 9 months of age in monocytes, but not in myeloid dendritic cells (mDCs). No changes in production of anti-inflammatory IL-10 were observed. CD40 expression increased with age in both cell populations. Older infants displayed substantial activation of all three signal transduction molecules: degradation of NF-κB inhibitor IκBα and phosphorylation of MAPK Erk and p38 upon TLR1/2 triggering, compared with predominant activation of only one of any of these molecules in newborns.
Maturation of innate pro-inflammatory responses during the first 9 months of life may underlie more effective control of mycobacteria and other pathogens observed later in infancy, and age-related differential induction of Th1 responses by vaccination.
infants; monocytes; mycobacteria; pro-inflammatory; signal transduction
CD8 T cells play a critical role in control of chronic viral infections; however, the role of these cells in containing persistent bacterial infections, such as those caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), is less clear. We assessed the phenotype and functional capacity of CD8 T cells specific for the immunodominant Mtb antigens CFP-10 and ESAT-6, in patients with pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) disease, before and after treatment, and in healthy persons with latent Mtb infection (LTBI). In patients with TB disease, CFP-10/ESAT-6-specific IFN-γ+ CD8 T cells had an activated, pro-apoptotic phenotype, with lower Bcl-2 and CD127 expression, and higher Ki67, CD57, and CD95 expression, than in LTBI. When CFP-10/ESAT-6-specific IFN-γ+ CD8 T cells were detectable, expression of distinct combinations of these markers was highly sensitive and specific for differentiating TB disease from LTBI. Successful treatment of disease resulted in changes of these markers, but not in restoration of CFP-10/ESAT-6-specific CD8 or CD4 memory T cell proliferative capacity. These data suggest that high mycobacterial load in active TB disease is associated with activated, short-lived CFP-10/ESAT-6-specific CD8 T cells with impaired functional capacity that is not restored following treatment. By contrast, LTBI is associated with preservation of long-lived CFP-10/ESAT-6-specific memory CD8 T cells that maintain high Bcl-2 expression and which may readily proliferate.
Background. Improved vaccination strategies against tuberculosis are needed, such as approaches to boost immunity induced by the current vaccine, BCG. Design of these strategies has been hampered by a lack of knowledge of the kinetics of the human host response induced by neonatal BCG vaccination. Furthermore, the functional and phenotypic attributes of BCG-induced long-lived memory T-cell responses remain unclear.
Methods. We assessed the longitudinal CD4+ T-cell response following BCG vaccination of human newborns. The kinetics, function, and phenotype of these cells were measured using flow cytometric whole-blood assays.
Results. We showed that the BCG-specific CD4+ T-cell response peaked 6–10 weeks after vaccination and gradually waned over the first year of life. Highly activated T-helper 1 cells, predominantly expressing interferon γ, tumor necrosis factor α, and/or interleukin 2, were present at the peak response. Following contraction, BCG-specific CD4+ T cells expressed high levels of Bcl-2 and displayed a predominant CD45RA–CCR7+ central memory phenotype. However, cytokine and cytotoxic marker expression by these cells was more characteristic of effector memory cells.
Conclusions. Our findings suggest that boosting of BCG-primed CD4+ T cells with heterologous tuberculosis vaccines may be best after 14 weeks of age, once an established memory response has developed.
Bacille Calmette-Guérin; Vaccination; Newborns; Memory T cells; T cell kinetics
Rationale: Tuberculosis (TB) is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, thus there is an urgent need for novel TB vaccines.
Objectives: We investigated a novel TB vaccine candidate, M72/AS01, in a phase IIa trial of bacille Calmette-Guérin–vaccinated, HIV-uninfected, and Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb)–infected and -uninfected adults in South Africa.
Methods: Two doses of M72/AS01 were administered to healthy adults, with and without latent Mtb infection. Participants were monitored for 7 months after the first dose; cytokine production profiles, cell cycling, and regulatory phenotypes of vaccine-induced T cells were measured by flow cytometry.
Measurements and Main Results: The vaccine had a clinically acceptable safety profile, and induced robust, long-lived M72-specific T-cell and antibody responses. M72-specific CD4 T cells produced multiple combinations of Th1 cytokines. Analysis of T-cell Ki67 expression showed that most vaccination-induced T cells did not express Th1 cytokines or IL-17; these cytokine-negative Ki67+ T cells included subsets of CD4 T cells with regulatory phenotypes. PD-1, a negative regulator of activated T cells, was transiently expressed on M72-specific CD4 T cells after vaccination. Specific T-cell subsets were present at significantly higher frequencies after vaccination of Mtb-infected versus -uninfected participants.
Conclusions: M72/AS01 is clinically well tolerated in Mtb-infected and -uninfected adults, induces high frequencies of multifunctional T cells, and boosts distinct T-cell responses primed by natural Mtb infection. Moreover, these results provide important novel insights into how this immunity may be appropriately regulated after novel TB vaccination of Mtb-infected and -uninfected individuals.
Clinical trial registered with www.clinicaltrials.gov (NCT 00600782).
tuberculosis; vaccine; T cell; cytokine; proliferation
Innate cells are essential for host defense against invading pathogens, and the induction and direction of adaptive immune responses to infection. We developed and optimized a flow cytometric assay that allows measurement of intracellular cytokine expression by monocytes, dendritic cells (DC) and granulocytes, as well as cellular uptake of green-fluorescent protein (GFP)-expressing mycobacteria, in very small volumes of peripheral blood.
We show that innate cell stimulation resulted in increased granularity of monocytes and mDCs and decreased granulocyte granularity that precluded flow cytometric discernment of granulocytes from monocytes and myeloid DC by forward and side scatter gating. Anti-CD66a/c/e antibody staining allowed reliable identification and exclusion of granulocytes for subsequent delineation of monocytes and myeloid DC. Intracellular cytokine expression by granulocytes, monocytes and mDC was remarkably sensitive to the dose of mycobacterial inoculum. Moreover, activation of monocytes and mDCs with live BCG reduced expression levels of CD14 and CD11c, respectively, necessitating optimization of staining conditions to reliably measure these lineage markers. Finally, we characterized expression of IL-12/23p40, TNF-α, IL-6, and IL-10, by GFP+ and GFP− monocytes and mDC from 25 healthy adults.
This assay may be applied to the study of innate cell responses to any GFP-expressing pathogen, and can be performed on blood volumes as low as 200µL per condition, making the assay particularly suitable for pediatric studies.
Mycobacteria; flow cytometry; monocytes; dendritic cells; granulocytes; innate cytokines
New tuberculosis (TB) vaccines are being developed to combat the global epidemic. A phase IIb trial of a candidate vaccine, MVA85A, was conducted in a high burden setting in South Africa to evaluate proof-of-concept efficacy for prevention of TB in infants.
To describe the study design and implementation lessons from an infant TB vaccine efficacy trial.
This was a randomised, controlled, double-blind clinical trial comparing the safety and efficacy of MVA85A to Candin control administered to 4–6-month-old, BCG-vaccinated, HIV-negative infants at a rural site in South Africa. Infants were followed up for 15–39 months for incident TB disease based on pre-specified endpoints.
2797 infants were enrolled over 22 months. Factors adversely affecting recruitment and the solutions that were implemented are discussed. Slow case accrual led to six months extension of trial follow up.
The clinical, regulatory and research environment for modern efficacy trials of new TB vaccines are substantially different to that when BCG vaccine was first evaluated in infants. Future infant TB vaccine trials will need to allocate sufficient resources and optimise operational efficiency. A stringent TB case definition is necessary to maximize specificity, and TB case accrual must be monitored closely.
BCG; Vaccine; Tuberculosis; Lessons learnt; Implementation
Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are critical mediators of the immune response to pathogens. The influence of human TLR6 polymorphisms on susceptibility to infection is only partially understood. Most microbes contain lipopeptides recognized by TLR2/1 or TLR2/6 heterodimers. Our aim was to determine whether single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in TLR6 are associated with altered immune responses to lipopeptides and whole mycobacteria.
We sequenced the TLR6 coding region in 100 healthy South African adults to assess genetic variation and determined associations between polymorphisms and lipopeptide- and mycobacteria-induced IL-6 production in whole blood. We found 2 polymorphisms, C745T and G1083C that were associated with altered IL-6 secretion. G1083C was associated with altered IL-6 levels in response to lipopeptides, Mycobacterium tuberculosis lysate (Mtb, P = 0.018) and BCG (P = 0.039). The 745T allele was also associated with lower NF-κB signaling in response to di-acylated lipopeptide, PAM2 (P = 0.019) or Mtb (P = 0.026) in a HEK293 cell line reconstitution assay, compared with the 745C allele.
We conclude that TLR6 polymorphisms may be associated with altered lipopeptide-induced cytokine responses and recognition of Mtb. These studies provide new insight into the role of TLR6 variation and the innate immune response to human infection.
Toll-like receptor 6; polymorphism; interleukin 6; tuberculosis; immune response
Many HIV-infected infants progress to AIDS during the first year of life when antiretroviral therapy (ART) is not given. The immune determinants of progression to AIDS are not known. We hypothesized that distinct HIV-specific T cell responses correlate with viral load and survival over the first year of life. Whole blood of infants at 3, 6, 9, and 12 months of age was incubated with HIV antigens Gag and Env. The frequency of specific T cells producing interferon (IFN)-γ was then measured by flow cytometry. Viral load and CD4% in HIV+ infants were determined at each time point. ART was not available for this population at the time of sample collection. Those infants who survived to 12 months of age (n=12) had lower viral loads and higher Gag-specific CD8+ T cell responses at 3 months, compared with infants who died (n=8). Furthermore, the frequency of Gag-specific CD4+ T cells correlated inversely with viral load at 3 and 6 months of age. Together these data indicate that the early presence of quantitatively higher Gag-specific T cell responses in HIV-infected infants is associated with lower viral loads and decreased mortality in the first year of life. Our data support the design of a vaccine that preferentially elicits Gag responses, which may result in lower levels of viremia and possibly improve outcome.
Rationale: Novel tuberculosis (TB) vaccines should be safe and effective in populations infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.tb) and/or HIV for effective TB control.
Objective: To determine the safety and immunogenicity of MVA85A, a novel TB vaccine, among M.tb- and/or HIV-infected persons in a setting where TB and HIV are endemic.
Methods: An open-label, phase IIa trial was conducted in 48 adults with M.tb and/or HIV infection. Safety and immunogenicity were analyzed up to 52 weeks after intradermal vaccination with 5 × 107 plaque-forming units of MVA85A. Specific T-cell responses were characterized by IFN-γ enzyme-linked immunospot and whole blood intracellular cytokine staining assays.
Measurements and Main Results: MVA85A was well tolerated and no vaccine-related serious adverse events were recorded. MVA85A induced robust and durable response of mostly polyfunctional CD4+ T cells, coexpressing IFN-γ, tumor necrosis factor-α, and IL-2. Magnitudes of pre- and postvaccination T-cell responses were lower in HIV-infected, compared with HIV-uninfected, vaccinees. No significant effect of antiretroviral therapy on immunogenicity of MVA85A was observed.
Conclusions: MVA85A was safe and immunogenic in persons with HIV and/or M.tb infection. These results support further evaluation of safety and efficacy of this vaccine for prevention of TB in these target populations.
tuberculosis; HIV-1; vaccine; MVA85A; clinical trial
One third of the world’s population is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.tb). A vaccine that would prevent progression to TB disease will have a dramatic impact on the global TB burden. We propose that antigens of M.tb that are preferentially expressed during latent infection will be excellent candidates for post-exposure vaccination. We therefore assessed human T cell recognition of two such antigens, Rv2660 and Rv2659. Expression of these was shown to be associated with non-replicating persistence in vitro. After six days incubation of PBMC from persons with latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) and tuberculosis (TB) disease, Rv2660 and Rv2659 induced IFN-γ production in a greater proportion of persons with LTBI, compared with TB diseased patients. Persons with LTBI also had increased numbers of viable T cells, and greater specific CD4+ T cell proliferation and cytokine expression capacity. Persons with LTBI preferentially recognize Rv2659 and Rv2660, compared with patients with TB disease. These results suggest promise of these antigens for incorporation into post-exposure TB vaccines.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis; LTBI; TB disease; latency antigens; post-infection vaccine
High antigen load in chronic viral infections has been associated with impairment of antigen-specific T cell responses; however, the relationship between antigen load in chronic Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection and functional capacity of Mtb-specific T cells in humans is not clear. We compared Mtb-specific T cell-associated cytokine production and proliferative capacity in peripheral blood from adults with progressively higher mycobacterial loads, i.e., persons with latent Mtb infection (LTBI), with smear − pulmonary tuberculosis (TB), and with smear+ TB. Patients with smear+ TB had decreased polyfunctional IFN-γ+IL-2+TNF-α+ and IL-2-producing specific CD4 T cells and increased TNF-α-single positive cells, when compared with smear − TB and LTBI. TB patients also had increased frequencies of Mtb-specific CD8 T cells, compared with LTBI. Mtb-specific CD4 and CD8 T cell proliferative capacity was profoundly impaired in individuals with smear+ TB, and correlated positively with ex vivo IFN-γ+IL-2+TNF-α+ CD4 T cells, and inversely with TNF-α single-positive CD4 T cells. During 6 months of anti-TB treatment, specific IFN-γ+IL-2+TNF-α+ CD4 and CD8 T cells increased, whereas TNF-α- and IFN-γ-single positive T cells decreased. These results suggest progressive impairment of Mtb-specific T cell responses with increasing mycobacterial load, and recovery of responses during therapy. Furthermore, these data provide a link between specific cytokine-producing subsets and functional capacity of Mtb-specific T cells, and between the presence of specific CD8 T cells ex vivo and active TB disease. Taken together, these data have potentially significant applications for diagnosis of TB and for identification of T cell correlates of TB disease progression.
The development of effective immunoprophylaxis against tuberculosis (TB) remains a global priority, but is hampered by a partially protective Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine and an incomplete understanding of the mechanisms of immunity to Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Although host genetic factors may be a primary reason for BCG's variable and inadequate efficacy, this possibility has not been intensively examined. We hypothesized that Toll-like receptor (TLR) variation is associated with altered in vivo immune responses to BCG. We examined whether functionally defined TLR pathway polymorphisms were associated with T cell cytokine responses in whole blood stimulated ex vivo with BCG 10 weeks after newborn BCG vaccination of South African infants. In the primary analysis, polymorphism TLR6_C745T (P249S) was associated with increased BCG-induced IFN-γ in both discovery (n = 240) and validation (n = 240) cohorts. In secondary analyses of the combined cohort, TLR1_T1805G (I602S) and TLR6_G1083C (synonymous) were associated with increased IFN-γ, TLR6_G1083C and TLR6_C745T were associated with increased IL-2, and TLR1_A1188T was associated with increased IFN-γ and IL-2. For each of these polymorphisms, the hypo-responsive allele, as defined by innate immunity signaling assays, was associated with increased production of TH1-type T cell cytokines (IFN-γ or IL-2). After stimulation with TLR1/6 lipopeptide ligands, PBMCs from TLR1/6-deficient individuals (stratified by TLR1_T1805G and TLR6_C745T hyporesponsive genotypes) secreted lower amounts of IL-6 and IL-10 compared to those with responsive TLR1/6 genotypes. In contrast, no IL-12p70 was secreted by PBMCs or monocytes. These data support a mechanism where TLR1/6 polymorphisms modulate TH1 T-cell polarization through genetic regulation of monocyte IL-10 secretion in the absence of IL-12. These studies provide evidence that functionally defined innate immune gene variants are associated with the development of adaptive immune responses after in vivo vaccination against a bacterial pathogen in humans. These findings could potentially guide novel adjuvant vaccine strategies as well as have implications for IFN-γ-based diagnostic testing for TB.
Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the leading infectious causes of death worldwide. The current vaccine for TB, BCG, is widely used but it is not highly effective in preventing disease. We investigated the role of host genetics in the immune response to BCG vaccination. We found that variants of innate immunity genes (TLR1 and TLR6) were associated with BCG-induced immune responses after vaccination. These findings may guide new strategies for vaccine development as well as diagnosis of TB.
Antigen-specific proliferation is a critical function of memory T cells that is often utilised to measure vaccine immunogenicity and T cell function. We proposed that measurement of intracellular expression of the nuclear protein, Ki67, could reliably assess specific T cell proliferation in vitro.
Ki67 was expressed in CD4+ and CD8+ T cells that had undergone in vitro proliferation after 6-day culture of human whole blood or PBMC with antigens. T cells cultured with no antigen did not express Ki67. When compared to current flow cytometry based proliferation assays, Ki67 detected proliferating cells with greater sensitivity than BrdU incorporation, whereas its sensitivity was similar to dye dilution of Oregon Green (OG), a CFSE derivative. Overall, the magnitude and cytokine expression profile of proliferating T cells detected by Ki67 expression correlated strongly with T cells detected with BrdU or OG. The intra-assay variability of Ki67 proliferation was 2–3% for CD4+ T cells, and 10–16% for CD8+ T cells. Finally, we demonstrate that the Ki67 assay detects tetanus toxoid-specific CD4+ T cell proliferation after infant vaccination with tetanus toxoid (TT).
Overall our data suggest that intracellular Ki67 expression provides a specific, quantitative and reproducible measure of antigen-specific T cell proliferation in vitro.
PPD, purified protein derivative; TT, tetanus toxoid; OG, Oregon Green; Ki67; T cells; Cellular proliferation; Vaccine; Clinical immunology
HIV-1 infection causes a severe T cell compromise; however, little is known about changes in naïve, memory, effector and senescent T cell subsets during the first year of life. T cell subsets were studied over the first year of life in blood from 3 infant cohorts: untreated HIV-infected, HIV-exposed but uninfected, and HIV-unexposed. In HIV-infected infants, the frequency of CCR7+CD45RA+ naïve CD8+ T cells was significantly decreased, whilst the frequency of CCR7−CD45RA− effector memory CD8+ T cells was increased, compared with the control cohorts. A larger population of CD8+ T cells in HIV-infected infants displayed a phenotype consistent with senescence. Differences in CD4+ T cell subset frequencies were less pronounced, and no significant differences were observed between exposed and unexposed HIV-uninfected infants. We concluded that the proportion of naïve, memory, effector and senescent CD8+ T cells during the first year of life is significantly altered by HIV-1 infection.
CD4; CD8; memory; HIV-1; infants
World-wide, most infants born to HIV-infected mothers receive BCG. Tuberculosis is a major cause of death of HIV-infected infants in sub-Saharan Africa, and should be prevented. However, BCG may itself cause disease (BCGosis) in these infants. Information regarding the immunogenicity of BCG is imperative for the risk/benefit assessment of BCG vaccination in HIV-infected infants; however, no such data exists.
We compared BCG-induced CD4 and CD8 T cell responses, assessed by flow cytometry, in HIV-infected (n = 20), HIV-exposed but uninfected (n = 25), and HIV-unexposed (n = 23) infants, over their first year of life.
BCG vaccination of the 2 HIV-uninfected groups induced a robust response, characterized by IFN-γ, TNF-α, and/or IL-2-expressing CD4 T cells. In contrast, HIV-infected infants had a markedly lower response, throughout the first year of life. These infants also had significantly reduced numbers of IFN-γ, TNF-α and IL-2 co-expressing polyfunctional CD4 T cells, thought to indicate T cell quality.
HIV-1 infection severely impairs the BCG-specific T cell response during the first year of life. BCG may therefore provide little, if any, vaccine-induced benefit in HIV-infected infants. Considering the significant risk of BCGosis, these data strongly support not giving BCG to HIV-infected infants.
Tuberculosis; BCG; HIV; infants; T cells; immune response; polyfuntional; Th1; Th17