WP3: Development of new diagnostic methods

Cell-Mediated Immune Responses to in vivo-Expressed and Stage-Specific Mycobacterium tuberculosis Antigens in Latent and Active Tuberculosis Across Different Age Groups

Coppola M, Villar-Hernández R, van Meijgaarden KE, Latorre I, Muriel Moreno B, Garcia-Garcia E, Franken KLMC, Prat C, Stojanovic Z, De Souza Galvão ML, Millet J-P, Sabriá J, Sánchez-Montalva A, Noguera-Julian A, Geluk A, Domínguez J and Ottenhoff THM

Front. Immunol. (2020) 11:103. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2020.00103

Abstract

A quarter of the global human population is estimated to be latently infected by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the causative agent of tuberculosis (TB). TB remains the global leading cause of death by a single pathogen and ranks among the top-10 causes of overall global mortality. Current immunodiagnostic tests cannot discriminate between latent, active and past TB, nor predict progression of latent infection to active disease. The only registered TB vaccine, Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG), does not adequately prevent pulmonary TB in adolescents and adults, thus permitting continued TB-transmission. Several Mtb proteins, mostly discovered through IFN-γ centered approaches, have been proposed as targets for new TB-diagnostic tests or -vaccines. Recently, however, we identified novel Mtb antigens capable of eliciting multiple cytokines, including antigens that did not induce IFN-γ but several other cytokines. These antigens had been selected based on high Mtb gene-expression in the lung in vivo, and have been termed in vivo expressed (IVE-TB) antigens. Here, we extend and validate our previous findings in an independent Southern European cohort, consisting of adults and adolescents with either LTBI or TB. Our results confirm that responses to IVE-TB antigens, and also DosR-regulon and Rpf stage-specific Mtb antigens are marked by multiple cytokines, including strong responses, such as for TNF-α, in the absence of detectable IFN-γ production. Except for TNF-α, the magnitude of those responses were significantly higher in LTBI subjects. Additional unbiased analyses of high dimensional flow-cytometry data revealed that TNF-α+ cells responding to Mtb antigens comprised 17 highly heterogeneous cell types. Among these 17 TNF-α+ cells clusters identified, those with CD8+TEMRA or CD8+CD4+ phenotypes, defined by the expression of multiple intracellular markers, were the most prominent in adult LTBI, while CD14+ TNF-α+ myeloid-like clusters were mostly abundant in adolescent LTBI. Our findings, although limited to a small cohort, stress the importance of assessing broader immune responses than IFN-γ alone in Mtb antigen discovery as well as the importance of screening individuals of different age groups. In addition, our results provide proof of concept showing how unbiased multidimensional multiparametric cell subset analysis can identify unanticipated blood cell subsets that could play a role in the immune response against Mtb.