Rationale: A hallmark of pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) is the formation of granulomas. However, the immune factors that drive the formation of a protective granuloma during latent TB, and the factors that drive the formation of inflammatory granulomas during active TB, are not well defined.
Objectives: The objective of this study was to identify the underlying immune mechanisms involved in formation of inflammatory granulomas seen during active TB.
Methods: The immune mediators involved in inflammatory granuloma formation during TB were assessed using human samples and experimental models of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection, using molecular and immunologic techniques.
Measurements and main results: We demonstrate that in human patients with active TB and in nonhuman primate models of M. tuberculosis infection, neutrophils producing S100 proteins are dominant within the inflammatory lung granulomas seen during active TB. Using the mouse model of TB, we demonstrate that the exacerbated lung inflammation seen as a result of neutrophilic accumulation is dependent on S100A8/A9 proteins. S100A8/A9 proteins promote neutrophil accumulation by inducing production of proinflammatory chemokines and cytokines, and influencing leukocyte trafficking. Importantly, serum levels of S100A8/A9 proteins along with neutrophil-associated chemokines, such as keratinocyte chemoattractant, can be used as potential surrogate biomarkers to assess lung inflammation and disease severity in human TB.
Conclusions: Our results thus show a major pathologic role for S100A8/A9 proteins in mediating neutrophil accumulation and inflammation associated with TB. Thus, targeting specific molecules, such as S100A8/A9 proteins, has the potential to decrease lung tissue damage without impacting protective immunity against TB.