Activation of CD8 T Cells by Mycobacterial Vaccination Protects against Pulmonary Tuberculosis in the Absence of CD4 T Cells
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We have investigated whether both primary CD8 T cell activation and CD8 T cell-mediated protection from Mycobacterium tuberculosis challenge could occur in mycobacterial-vaccinated CD4 T cell-deficient (CD4KO) mice. Different from wild-type C57BL/6 mice, s.c. vaccination with bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) in CD4KO mice failed to provide protection from secondary M. tuberculosis challenge at 3 wk postvaccination. However, similar to C57BL/6 mice, CD4KO mice were well protected from M. tuberculosis at weeks 6 and 12 postvaccination. This protection was mediated by CD8 T cells. The maintenance of protective effector/memory CD8 T cells in CD4KO mice did not require the continuous presence of live BCG vaccine. As in C57BL/6 mice, similar levels of primary activation of CD8 T cells in CD4KO mice occurred in the draining lymph nodes at 3 wk after BCG vaccination, but different from C57BL/6 mice, the distribution of these cells to the spleen and lungs of CD4KO mice was delayed, which coincided with delayed acquisition of protection in CD4KO mice. Our results suggest that both the primary and secondary activation of CD8 T cells is CD4 T cell independent and that the maintenance of these CD8 T cells is also independent of CD4 T cells and no longer requires the presence of live mycobacteria. However, the lack of CD4 T cells may result in delayed distribution of activated CD8 T cells from draining lymph nodes to distant organs and consequently a delayed acquisition of immune protection. Our findings hold implications in rational design of tuberculosis vaccination strategies for humans with impaired CD4 T cell function.
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