The pathophysiological functions and the underlying molecular basis of PE /PPE proteins of M. tuberculosis remain largely unknown. In this study, we focused on the link between PPE26 and host response. We demonstrated that PPE26 can induce extensive inflammatory responses in macrophages through triggering the cross-talk of multiple pathways involved in the host response, as revealed by iTRAQ-based subcellular quantitative proteomics. We observed that PPE26 is able to specifically bind to TLR2 leading to the subsequent activation of MAPKs and NF-κB signaling. PPE26 functionally stimulates macrophage activation by augmenting pro-inflammatory cytokine production (TNF-α, IL-6 and IL-12 p40) and the expression of cell surface markers (CD80, CD86, MHC class I and II). We observed that PPE26-treated macrophages effectively polarizes naïve CD4(+) T cells to up-regulate CXCR3 expression, and to secrete IFN-γ and IL-2, indicating PPE26 contributes to the Th1 polarization during the immune response. Importantly, rBCG::PPE26 induces stronger antigen-specific TNF-α and IFN-γ activity, and higher levels of the Th1 cytokines TNF-α and IFN-γ comparable to BCG. Moreover, PPE26 effectively induces the reciprocal expansion of effector/memory CD4(+)/CD8(+) CD44(high)CD62L(low) T cells in the spleens of mice immunized with this strain. These results suggest that PPE26 may be a TLR2 agonist that stimulates innate immunity and adaptive immunity, indicating that PPE26 is a potential antigen for the rational design of an efficient vaccine against M. tuberculosis.
Keywords: Immune response; Immunity; Immunology and Microbiology Section; PE/PPE; PPE26; TLR2; mycobacterium tuberculosis; proteomics.