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Keywords:

  • tuberculosis;
  • culture filtrate proteins;
  • CpG oligodeoxynucleotides;
  • vaccine;
  • adjuvant

Summary

The results of various animal model studies of tuberculosis (TB) suggest that culture filtrate proteins (CFPs), which are antigens secreted by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, are largely responsible for improvements in TB vaccines. The great obstacle to developing protein subunit vaccines is that adjuvants are required in order to stimulate relevant protective immune responses. Acting as immune adjuvants, CpG-oligodeoxynucleotides (CpG-ODNs) promote the activation of Th1 cells and of pro-inflammatory cytokines. To evaluate the adjuvant role of CpG-ODNs in conferring enhanced immunogenic capacity and protection against M. tuberculosis, we immunized mice with CFP antigen combined with synthetic CpG-ODNs (CFP/CpG) or with incomplete Freund's adjuvant (IFA) (CFP/IFA). Immunization with CFP/CpG induced a T helper 1 (Th1)-biased response accompanied by a higher immunoglobulin G2a (IgG2a) antibody/IgG1 antibody ratio, elevated production of interferon-γ (IFN-γ) by spleen cells and in lungs. However, CFP/IFA-immunized mice presented higher levels of IgG1 antibodies, as well as increased production of IFN-γ, interleukin (IL)-5, and IL-10 by spleen cells, together with lower levels of IFN-γ in the lungs. Despite the stronger Th1 response seen in both groups, believed to be necessary for protection against TB, only mice immunized with CFP/IFA were protected after M. tuberculosis infection. Lung histology revealed that lung parenchyma were better preserved in CFP/IFA-immunized mice, which also presented intense lymphocyte recruitment to the lesion, whereas CFP/CpG-immunized mice presented severe pulmonary injury accompanied by necrosis. Based on the data presented, we discuss the widely accepted paradigm that high levels of IFN-γ are directly correlated with protection against experimental TB.