CD4+ T cell-dependent IFN-γ production by CD8+ effector T cells in Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection

Tyler D. Bold, Joel D. Ernst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells contribute to immunity to tuberculosis, and both can produce the essential effector cytokine IFN-γ. However, the precise role and relative contribution of each cell type to in vivo IFN-γ production are incompletely understood. To identify and quantitate the cells that produce IFN-γ at the site of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection in mice, we used direct intracellular cytokine staining ex vivo without restimulation. We found that CD4+ and CD8+ cells were predominantly responsible for production of this cytokine in vivo, and we observed a remarkable linear correlation between the fraction of CD4+ cells and the fraction of CD8+ cells producing IFN-γ in the lungs. In the absence of CD4+ cells, a reduced fraction of CD8 + cells was actively producing IFN-γ in vivo, suggesting that CD4+ effector cells are continually required for optimal IFN-γ production by CD8+effector cells. Accordingly, when infected mice were treated i.v. with an MHC-II-restricted M. tuberculosis epitope peptide to stimulate CD4+ cells in vivo, we observed rapid activation of both CD4+ and CD8+ cells in the lungs. Indirect activation of CD8+cells was dependent on the presence of CD4+ cells but independent of IFN-γ responsiveness of the CD8+ cells. These data provide evidence that CD4+ cell deficiency impairs IFN-γ production by CD8+ effector cells and that ongoing cross-talk between distinct effector T cell types in the lungs may contribute to a protective immune response against M. tuberculosis. Conversely, defects in these interactions may contribute to susceptibility to tuberculosis and other infections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2530-2536
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2012
Externally publishedYes


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