Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) is a highly successful pathogen because of its ability to persist in human lungs for long periods of time. MTB modulates several aspects of the host immune response. Lymphocyte-activation gene 3 (LAG3) is a protein with a high affinity for the CD4 receptor and is expressed mainly by regulatory T cells with immunomodulatory functions. To understand the function of LAG3 during MTB infection, a nonhuman primate model of tuberculosis, which recapitulates key aspects of natural human infection in rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta), was used. We show that the expression of LAG3 is highly induced in the lungs and particularly in the granulomatous lesions of macaques experimentally infected with MTB. Furthermore, we show that LAG3 expression is not induced in the lungs and lung granulomas of animals exhibiting latent tuberculosis infection. However, simian immunodeficiency virus-induced reactivation of latent tuberculosis infection results in an increased expression of LAG3 in the lungs. This response is not observed in nonhuman primates infected with non-MTB bacterial pathogens, nor with simian immunodeficiency virus alone. Our data show that LAG3 was expressed primarily on CD4(+) T cells, presumably by regulatory T cells but also by natural killer cells. The expression of LAG3 coincides with high bacterial burdens and changes in the host type 1 helper T-cell response.
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