PloS one

Granulysin-expressing CD4+ T cells as candidate immune marker for tuberculosis during childhood and adolescence.

PMID 22216262


Granulysin produced by cytolytic T cells directly contributes to immune defense against tuberculosis (TB). We investigated granulysin as a candidate immune marker for childhood and adolescent TB. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from children and adolescents (1-17 years) with active TB, latent TB infection (LTBI), nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) infection and from uninfected controls were isolated and restimulated in a 7-day restimulation assay. Intracellular staining was then performed to analyze antigen-specific induction of activation markers and cytotoxic proteins, notably, granulysin in CD4(+) CD45RO(+) memory T cells. CD4(+) CD45RO(+) T cells co-expressing granulysin with specificity for Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) were present in high frequency in TB-experienced children and adolescents. Proliferating memory T cells (CFSE(low)CD4(+)CD45RO(+)) were identified as main source of granulysin and these cells expressed both central and effector memory phenotype. PBMC from study participants after TB drug therapy revealed that granulysin-expressing CD4(+) T cells are long-lived, and express several activation and cytotoxicity markers with a proportion of cells being interferon-gamma-positive. In addition, granulysin-expressing T cell lines showed cytolytic activity against Mtb-infected target cells. Our data suggest granulysin expression by CD4(+) memory T cells as candidate immune marker for TB infection, notably, in childhood and adolescence.