Single-cell analysis of innate cytokine responses to pattern recognition receptor stimulation in children across four continents

J Immunol. 2014 Sep 15;193(6):3003-3012. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1400895. Epub 2014 Aug 18.


Innate immunity instructs adaptive immunity, and suppression of innate immunity is associated with an increased risk for infection. We showed previously that whole-blood cellular components from a cohort of South African children secreted significantly lower levels of most cytokines following stimulation of pattern recognition receptors compared with whole blood from cohorts of Ecuadorian, Belgian, or Canadian children. To begin dissecting the responsible molecular mechanisms, we set out to identify the relevant cellular source of these differences. Across the four cohorts represented in our study, we identified significant variation in the cellular composition of whole blood; however, a significant reduction in the intracellular cytokine production on the single-cell level was only detected in South African children's monocytes, conventional dendritic cells, and plasmacytoid dendritic cells. We also uncovered a marked reduction in polyfunctionality for each of these cellular compartments in South African children compared with children from the other continents. Together, our data identify differences in cell composition, as well as profoundly lower functional responses of innate cells, in our cohort of South African children. A possible link between altered innate immunity and increased risk for infection or lower response to vaccines in South African infants needs to be explored.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Cytokines / blood*
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Ecuador
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Male
  • Monocytes / immunology
  • Receptors, Pattern Recognition / immunology*
  • Single-Cell Analysis
  • South Africa


  • Cytokines
  • Receptors, Pattern Recognition