Many aspects of pathogenic granuloma formation are poorly understood, requiring new relevant laboratory models that represent the complexity (genetics and diversity) of human disease. To address this need, we developed an in vitro model of granuloma formation using human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) derived from patients with active sarcoidosis, latent tuberculosis (TB) infection (LTBI), or normal healthy control subjects. PBMCs were incubated for 7 days with uncoated polystyrene beads or beads coated with purified protein derivative (PPD) or human serum albumin. In response to PPD-coated beads, PBMCs from donors with sarcoidosis and LTBI formed robust multicellular aggregates resembling granulomas, displaying a typical T-helper cell type 1 immune response, as assessed by cytokine analyses. In contrast, minimal PBMC aggregation occurred when control PBMCs were incubated with PPD-coated beads, whereas the response to uncoated beads was negligible in all groups. Sarcoidosis PBMCs responded to human serum albumin-coated beads with modest cellular aggregation and inflammatory cytokine release. Whereas the granuloma-like aggregates formed in response to PPD-coated beads were similar for sarcoidosis and LTBI, molecular profiles differed significantly. mRNA expression patterns revealed distinct pathways engaged in early granuloma formation in sarcoidosis and LTBI, and they resemble molecular patterns reported in diseased human tissues. This novel in vitro human granuloma model is proposed as a tool to investigate mechanisms of early granuloma formation and for preclinical drug discovery research of human granulomatous disorders. Clinical trial registered with www.clinicaltrials.gov (NCT01857401).
Keywords: AmpliSeq; RNA-Seq; Th1; peripheral blood mononuclear cell; purified protein derivative.