Background: The century-old Mycobacterium bovis Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) remains the only licensed vaccine against tuberculosis (TB). Despite this, there is still a lot to learn about the immune response induced by BCG, both in terms of phenotype and specificity.
Methods: We investigated immune responses in adult individuals pre and 8 months post BCG vaccination. We specifically determined changes in gene expression, cell subset composition, DNA methylome, and the TCR repertoire induced in PBMCs and CD4 memory T cells associated with antigen stimulation by either BCG or a Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb)-derived peptide pool.
Findings: Following BCG vaccination, we observed increased frequencies of CCR6+ CD4 T cells, which includes both Th1* (CXCR3+CCR6+) and Th17 subsets, and mucosal associated invariant T cells (MAITs). A large number of immune response genes and pathways were upregulated post BCG vaccination with similar patterns observed in both PBMCs and memory CD4 T cells, thus suggesting a substantial role for CD4 T cells in the cellular response to BCG. These upregulated genes and associated pathways were also reflected in the DNA methylome. We described both qualitative and quantitative changes in the BCG-specific TCR repertoire post vaccination, and importantly found evidence for similar TCR repertoires across different subjects.
Interpretation: The immune signatures defined herein can be used to track and further characterize immune responses induced by BCG, and can serve as reference for benchmarking novel vaccination strategies.
Keywords: Adaptive immunity; BCG; CCR6+ T cells; T cell; transcriptomics; tuberculosis; vaccine.
Copyright © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.