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Keywords:

  • CD4+ Foxp3+;
  • DNA vaccine;
  • heterologous immunization;
  • regulatory T cell;
  • tuberculosis

Summary

CD4+ Foxp3+ regulatory T cells inhibit the production of interferon-γ, which is the major mediator of protection against Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection. In this study, we evaluated whether the protection conferred by three different vaccines against tuberculosis was associated with the number of spleen and lung regulatory T cells. We observed that after homologous immunization with the 65 000 molecular weight heat-shock protein (hsp 65) DNA vaccine, there was a significantly higher number of spleen CD4+ Foxp3+ cells compared with non-immunized mice. Heterologous immunization using bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) to prime and DNA-hsp 65 to boost (BCG/DNA-hsp 65) or BCG to prime and culture filtrate proteins (CFP)-CpG to boost (BCG/CFP-CpG) induced a significantly higher ratio of spleen CD4+/CD4+ Foxp3+ cells compared with non-immunized mice. In addition, the protection conferred by either the BCG/DNA-hsp 65 or the BCG/CFP-CpG vaccines was significant compared with the DNA-hsp 65 vaccine. Despite the higher ratio of spleen CD4+/CD4+ Foxp3+ cells found in BCG/DNA-hsp 65-immunized or BCG/CFP-CpG-immunized mice, the lungs of both groups of mice were better preserved than those of DNA-hsp 65-immunized mice. These results confirm the protective efficacy of BCG/DNA-hsp 65 and BCG/CFP-CpG heterologous prime-boost vaccines and the DNA-hsp 65 homologous vaccine. Additionally, the prime-boost regimens assayed here represent a promising strategy for the development of new vaccines to protect against tuberculosis because they probably induce a proper ratio of CD4+ and regulatory (CD4+ Foxp3+) cells during the immunization regimen. In this study, this ratio was associated with a reduced number of regulatory cells and no injury to the lungs.