Granuloma correlates of protection against tuberculosis and mechanisms of immune modulation by Mycobacterium tuberculosis

J Infect Dis. 2013 Apr;207(7):1115-27. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jis778. Epub 2012 Dec 18.


Background: The BCG vaccine is ineffective against adult tuberculosis. Hence, new antituberculosis vaccines are needed. Correlates of protection against tuberculosis are not known. We studied the effects of BCG vaccination on gene expression in tuberculosis granulomas using macaques.

Methods: Macaques were BCG-vaccinated or sham-vaccinated and then challenged with virulent Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Lung lesions were used for comparative transcriptomics.

Results: Vaccinated macaques were protected with lower bacterial burden and immunopathology. Lesions from BCG-vaccinated nonhuman primates (NHPs) showed a better balance of α- and β-chemokine gene expression with higher levels of β-chemokine expression relative to nonvaccinated animals. Consistent with this, sham-vaccinated macaques recruited fewer macrophages relative to neutrophils in their lungs. The expression of indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO), a known immunosuppressor, was significantly higher in both week 5 and 10 lesions from sham-vaccinated, relative to BCG-vaccinated, NHPs. IDO expression was primarily limited to the nonlymphocytic region of the lesions, within the inner ring structure surrounding the central necrosis.

Conclusions: Our study defines lung gene expression correlates of protective response against tuberculosis, relative to disease, which can potentially be employed to assess the efficacy of candidate antituberculosis vaccines. Mycobacterium tuberculosis may modulate protective immune responses using diverse mechanisms, including increased recruitment of inflammatory neutrophils and the concomitant use of IDO to modulate inflammation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • BCG Vaccine / immunology
  • BCG Vaccine / therapeutic use*
  • Bacterial Load
  • Chemokines, CC / immunology
  • Chemokines, CXC / immunology
  • Disease Progression
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic
  • Granuloma / enzymology
  • Granuloma / immunology*
  • Granuloma / microbiology*
  • Granuloma / pathology
  • Immunomodulation*
  • Indoleamine-Pyrrole 2,3,-Dioxygenase / genetics
  • Indoleamine-Pyrrole 2,3,-Dioxygenase / metabolism
  • Lung / immunology
  • Lung / microbiology
  • Lung / pathology
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / immunology*
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / pathogenicity
  • Necrosis / immunology
  • Necrosis / microbiology
  • Neutrophils / immunology
  • Time Factors
  • Transcriptome
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / immunology
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / microbiology
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / pathology
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / therapy*
  • Vaccination


  • BCG Vaccine
  • Chemokines, CC
  • Chemokines, CXC
  • Indoleamine-Pyrrole 2,3,-Dioxygenase