Department of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine; Program in Molecular Medicine
Bacterial Infections and Mycoses | Immunity | Immunology of Infectious Disease
BACKGROUND: Currently used mouse models fail to fully reflect human immunity to tuberculosis (TB), which hampers progress in research and vaccine development. Bone marrow-liver-thymus (BLT) mice, generated by engrafting human fetal liver, thymus, and hematopoietic stem cells in severely immunodeficient NOD/SCID/IL-2Rgamma(-/-) (NSG) mice, have shown potential to model human immunity to infection. We engrafted HLA-A2-positive fetal tissues into NSG mice transgenically expressing human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-A2.1 (NSG-A2) to generate NSG-A2-BLT mice and characterized their human immune response to Mycobacterium bovis bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) infection to assess the utility of this model for investigating human TB.
RESULTS: NSG-A2-BLT mice were infected intravenously with BCG and the immune response of engrafted human immune cells was characterized. After ex vivo antigenic stimulation of splenocytes, interferon (IFN)-gamma-producing cells were detected by ELISPOT from infected, but not uninfected NSG-A2-BLT mice. However, the levels of secreted IFN-gamma, determined by ELISA, were not significantly elevated by antigenic stimulation. NSG-A2-BLT mice were susceptible to BCG infection as determined by higher lung bacillary load than the non-engrafted control NSG-A2 mice. BCG-infected NSG-A2-BLT mice developed lung lesions composed mostly of human macrophages and few human CD4+ or CD8+ T cells. The lesions did not resemble granulomas typical of human TB.
CONCLUSIONS: Engrafted human immune cells in NSG-A2-BLT mice showed partial function of innate and adaptive immune systems culminating in antigen-specific T cell responses to mycobacterial infection. The lack of protection was associated with low IFN-gamma levels and limited numbers of T cells recruited to the lesions. The NSG-A2-BLT mouse is capable of mounting a human immune response to M. tuberculosis in vivo but a quantitatively and possibly qualitatively enhanced effector response will be needed to improve the utility of this model for TB research.
Animal model, BCG, Tuberculosis, BLT mice, NSG mice
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Copyright 2013 Lee et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
DOI of Published Version
Lee J, Brehm MA, Greiner D, Shultz LD, Kornfeld H. Engrafted human cells generate adaptive immune responses to Mycobacterium bovis BCG infection in humanized mice. BMC Immunol. 2013 Dec 7;14:53. doi: 10.1186/1471-2172-14-53. Link to article on publisher's site
Lee, Jinhee; Brehm, Michael A.; Greiner, Dale L.; Shultz, Leonard D.; and Kornfeld, Hardy, "Engrafted human cells generate adaptive immune responses to Mycobacterium bovis BCG infection in humanized mice" (2013). University of Massachusetts Medical School Faculty Publications. 323.