UMMS Affiliation

Department of Microbiology and Physiological Systems

Publication Date


Document Type



Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins | Bacteria | Bacterial Infections and Mycoses | Immunology and Infectious Disease | Microbiology


Containment of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection requires T cell recognition of infected macrophages. Mtb has evolved to tolerate, evade, and subvert host immunity. Despite a vigorous and sustained CD8+ T cell response during Mtb infection, CD8+ T cells make limited contribution to protection. Here, we ask whether the ability of Mtb-specific T cells to restrict Mtb growth is related to their capacity to recognize Mtb-infected macrophages. We derived CD8+ T cell lines that recognized the Mtb immunodominant epitope TB10.44-11 and compared them to CD4+ T cell lines that recognized Ag85b240-254 or ESAT63-17. While the CD4+ T cells recognized Mtb-infected macrophages and inhibited Mtb growth in vitro, the TB10.4-specific CD8+ T cells neither recognized Mtb-infected macrophages nor restricted Mtb growth. TB10.4-specific CD8+ T cells recognized macrophages infected with Listeria monocytogenes expressing TB10.4. However, over-expression of TB10.4 in Mtb did not confer recognition by TB10.4-specific CD8+ T cells. CD8+ T cells recognized macrophages pulsed with irradiated Mtb, indicating that macrophages can efficiently cross-present the TB10.4 protein and raising the possibility that viable bacilli might suppress cross-presentation. Importantly, polyclonal CD8+ T cells specific for Mtb antigens other than TB10.4 recognized Mtb-infected macrophages in a MHC-restricted manner. As TB10.4 elicits a dominant CD8+ T cell response that poorly recognizes Mtb-infected macrophages, we propose that TB10.4 acts as a decoy antigen. Moreover, it appears that this response overshadows subdominant CD8+ T cell response that can recognize Mtb-infected macrophages. The ability of Mtb to subvert the CD8+ T cell response may explain why CD8+ T cells make a disproportionately small contribution to host defense compared to CD4+ T cells. The selection of Mtb antigens for vaccines has focused on antigens that generate immunodominant responses. We propose that establishing whether vaccine-elicited, Mtb-specific T cells recognize Mtb-infected macrophages could be a useful criterion for preclinical vaccine development.


T cells, Cytotoxic T cells, Macrophages, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Antigen processing and recognition, Major histocompatibility complex, Antigen-presenting cells, Bacterial growth

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Copyright: © 2018 Yang et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

DOI of Published Version



PLoS Pathog. 2018 May 21;14(5):e1007060. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1007060. eCollection 2018 Feb. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

PLoS pathogens

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Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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