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MAIT cells are minimally responsive to Mycobacterium tuberculosis within granulomas, but are functionally impaired by SIV in a macaque model of SIV and Mtb co-infection

By Amy L. Ellis-Connell, Alexis J. Balgeman, Erica C. Larson, Mark A. Rodgers, Cassaundra Ameel, Tonilynn Baranowski, Pauline Maiello, Jennifer A Juno, Charles A. Scanga, Shelby L. O’Connor

Posted 08 Jan 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.01.07.897447

Mucosal associated invariant T (MAIT) cells recognize and can directly destroy bacterially infected cells. While a role for MAIT cells has been suggested in several in vitro and in vivo models of M.tuberculosis (Mtb) infection, these studies have often focused on MAIT cells within the peripheral blood or are cross-sectional studies rather than longitudinal studies. The role of MAIT cells within granulomas and other sites of Mtb infection is relatively unknown. Furthermore, how HIV/SIV infection might impair MAIT cells at the sites of Mtb infection has not been determined. Using a Mauritian cynomolgus macaque (MCM) model system, we phenotyped MAIT cells in the peripheral blood and BAL prior to and during infection with SIVmac239. To characterize the role of MAIT cells within granulomas, SIV+ and -naive MCM were infected with a low dose of Mtb for 6 weeks. MAIT cell frequency and function was examined within the peripheral blood, distal airways, as well as within Mtb-affected lymph nodes (LN) and tissues. Surprisingly, we found no evidence of MAIT cell responsiveness to Mtb within granulomas. Additionally, MAIT cells only minimally responded to mycobacterial stimulus in ex vivo functional assays. In contrast, most MAIT cell activation seemed to occur in samples with highly active SIV replication, including blood and SIV-infected LN. Finally, the ability of MAIT cells to secrete TNFalpha; (TNF) was impaired during SIV and Mtb co-infection, indicating that the two pathogens together could have a synergistically deleterious effect on MAIT cell function. The effect of this functional impairment on overall TB disease burden was unclear, but might be deleterious if MAIT cells are needed to fully activate antimycobacterial immune cells within the granulomas.

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