Tuberculosis (TB) due to Mycobacterium tuberculosis remains a major global infectious disease problem, and a more efficacious vaccine is urgently needed for the control and prevention of disease caused by this organism. We previously reported that a genetically modified strain of Mycobacterium smegmatis called IKEPLUS is a promising TB vaccine candidate. Since protective immunity induced by IKEPLUS is dependent on antigen-specific CD4+ T cell memory, we hypothesized that the specificity of the CD4+ T cell response was a critical feature of this protection. Using in vitro assays of interferon gamma production (enzyme-linked immunosorbent spot [ELISPOT] assays) by splenocytes from IKEPLUS-immunized C57BL/6J mice, we identified an immunogenic peptide within the mycobacterial ribosomal large subunit protein RplJ, encoded by the Rv0651 gene. In a complementary approach, we generated major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II-restricted T cell hybridomas from IKEPLUS-immunized mice. Screening of these T cell hybridomas against IKEPLUS and ribosomes enriched from IKEPLUS suggested that the CD4+ T cell response in IKEPLUS-immunized mice was dominated by the recognition of multiple components of the mycobacterial ribosome. Importantly, CD4+ T cells specific for mycobacterial ribosomes accumulate to significant levels in the lungs of IKEPLUSimmunized mice following aerosol challenge with virulent M. tuberculosis, consistent with a role for these T cells in protective host immunity in TB. The identification of CD4+ T cell responses to defined ribosomal protein epitopes expands the range of antigenic targets for adaptive immune responses to M. tuberculosis and may help to inform the design of more effective vaccines against tuberculosis.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Funding sources were NIH grant AI063537 to William R. Jacobs, Jr., and Steven A. Porcelli; NIH grant AI093649 to Steven A. Porcelli; contract HHSN272200900044C to Alessandro Sette; and NIH training grant T32 AI07506 to Alison J. Johnson.
- T cells