Introduction: Expression of Suppressor of cytokine signaling (SOCS)-1 molecules is increased in patients with tuberculosis (TB). Early Secreted Antigen Target (ESAT)-6 kDa - induced IFN-γ responses indicate Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection. The effect of ESAT6- stimulation on SOCS1 in the host is not known.
Methodology: Healthy asymptomatic controls had a negative (n = 16) or a positive ( n = 13) tuberculin skin test (TST). ESAT6-induced IFN-γ responses classified these controls as positive (EC ESAT6 IFN-γ (+), n = 5) or negative (EC ESAT6 IFN-γ (-), n = 24) responders. Patients had pulmonary (n = 21) or extra-pulmonary (n = 30) tuberculosis. Peripheral blood cells were stimulated with ESAT6 and mRNA expression of IFN-γ and SOCS1 was determined.
Results: ESAT6-induced IFN-γ expression was raised in EC ESAT6 IFN-γ (+) as compared with EC ESAT6 IFN-γ (-), p = 0.019. ESAT6-induced SOCS1 mRNA expression was increased in both pulmonary TB and extra-pulmonary TB patients as compared with both EC groups. ESAT6-induced IFN-γ/SOCS1 mRNA expression ratio was decreased in TB patients as compared with both EC groups.
Conclusion: M. tuberculosis infection induces increased ESAT6-induced IFN-γ responses in both latent and active TB. Our data shows down-regulation of IFN-γ / SOCS1 expression to be induced only in active TB cases, distinguishing them from healthy individuals likely to have latent TB. A decreasing IFN-γ /SOCS1 ratio may leads to reduced Th1 immunity which contributes to inability of the host to control clinical disease.