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Keywords:

  • DNA vaccine;
  • interleukin-2;
  • multifunctional T cell;
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis ;
  • prime-boost;
  • protective immunity

Summary

The development of improved vaccines and vaccination strategies against Mycobacterium tuberculosis has been hindered by a limited understanding of the immune correlates of anti-tuberculosis protective immunity. Simple measurement of interferon-γ frequency or production per se does not provide adequate prediction of immune protection. In this study, we examined the relationship between T-cell immune responses and protective efficacy conferred by the heterologous vaccination strategy, bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) prime-Ag85A DNA boost (B/D), in an early challenge mouse model of pulmonary tuberculosis. The results demonstrated that mice vaccinated with the B/D regimen had a significantly reduced bacillary load compared with BCG-vaccinated mice, and the reduction in colony-forming units was associated with decreased pathology and lower levels of inflammatory cytokines in the infected lungs. Further analysis of immunogenicity showed that the superior protection afforded by the B/D regimen was associated with significantly increased frequency of splenic interleukin-2 (IL-2) -producing CD4 T cells and increased IL-2 production when measured as integrated mean fluorescence intensity post-vaccination as well. These data suggest that measurement of elevated frequency of IL-2-producing CD4 T cells or IL-2 production in the spleens of vaccinated mice can predict vaccine efficacy, at least in the B/D strategy, and add to the accumulating body of evidence suggesting that BCG prime-boost strategies may be a useful approach to the control of M. tuberclosis infection.