Mycobacterium tuberculosis uses numerous mechanisms to avoid elimination by the infected host. In this study, we investigated the possibility whether, similar to other pathogens, M. tuberculosis exploits natural CD4 +CD25+ T-regulatory cells (Treg) to suppress the effector function of responding host lymphocytes, thus enhancing its survival. During a Mycobacterium bovis bacille calmette guerin (BCG) pulmonary infection, we observed a 2.8-fold increase in forkhead box P3 (Foxp3+) CD25 + Treg in the lung. To inactivate the Treg in vivo, an mAb was given against CD25 (PC61) 3 days before a pulmonary infection with BCG or M. tuberculosis. Following PC61 treatment, we observed significantly decreased CD25 expression on CD4+ T lymphocytes for at least 23 days in the blood, spleen and lung when compared with the control mice. To determine whether Treg inactivation affected the protective antimycobacterial immune response, we measured cytokine production by flow cytometry. We observed small, but significant increases in the percentages of both IFN-γ-producing and IL-2-producing CD4+ cells from the spleen and the IL-2-producing CD4+ cells from the lungs of PC61-treated BCG-infected mice compared with the infected control mice. Despite this, there was neither a difference between the lung bacterial burdens of PC61-treated mice and control mice, measured until day 44 postinfection, nor was there an effect on infection-induced lung pathology. Together, these data imply that the absence of natural Treg early after infection results in a small increase in cytokine production, but this does not alter the course of either M. tuberculosis or BCG infections. This contrasts with the important role that natural Treg play in the pathogenesis of many other intracellular infectious organisms.
- Regulatory T cell