Clonal immune responses of Mycobacterium-specific γδ T cells in tuberculous and non-tuberculous tissues during M. tuberculosis infection

PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e30631. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0030631. Epub 2012 Feb 1.


Background: We previously demonstrated that unvaccinated macaques infected with large-dose M.tuberculosis(Mtb) exhibited delays for pulmonary trafficking of Ag-specific αβ and γδ T effector cells, and developed severe lung tuberculosis(TB) and "secondary" Mtb infection in remote organs such as liver and kidney. Despite delays in lungs, local immunity in remote organs may accumulate since progressive immune activation after pulmonary Mtb infection may allow IFNγ-producing γδ T cells to adequately develop and traffic to lately-infected remote organs. As initial efforts to test this hypothesis, we comparatively examined TCR repertoire/clonality, tissue trafficking and effector function of Vγ2Vδ2 T cells in lung with severe TB and in liver/kidney without apparent TB.

Methodology/principal findings: We utilized conventional infection-immunity approaches in macaque TB model, and employed our decades-long expertise for TCR repertoire analyses. TCR repertoires in Vγ2Vδ2 T-cell subpopulation were broad during primary Mtb infection as most TCR clones found in lymphoid system, lung, kidney and liver were distinct. Polyclonally-expanded Vγ2Vδ2 T-cell clones from lymphoid tissues appeared to distribute and localize in lung TB granuloms at the endpoint after Mtb infection by aerosol. Interestingly, some TCR clones appeared to be more predominant than others in lymphocytes from liver or kidney without apparent TB lesions. TCR CDR3 spetratyping revealed such clonal dominance, and the clonal dominance of expanded Vγ2Vδ2 T cells in kidney/liver tissues was associated with undetectable or low-level TB burdens. Furthermore, Vγ2Vδ2 T cells from tissue compartments could mount effector function for producing anti-mycobacterium cytokine.

Conclusion: We were the first to demonstrate clonal immune responses of mycobacterium-specific Vγ2Vδ2 T cells in the lymphoid system, heavily-infected lungs and lately subtly-infected kidneys or livers during primary Mtb infection. While clonally-expanded Vγ2Vδ2 T cells accumulated in lately-infected kidneys/livers without apparent TB lesions, TB burdens or lesions appeared to impact TCR repertoires and tissue trafficking patterns of activated Vγ2Vδ2 T cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Clone Cells / immunology
  • Immunity
  • Kidney / microbiology
  • Liver / microbiology
  • Lung / microbiology
  • Macaca
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / immunology*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / microbiology*


  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta