Tuberculosis patients and mice infected with live Mycobacterium tuberculosis accumulate high numbers of myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs). Here, we hypothesized that dead M. tuberculosis vaccines also may induce MDSCs that could impair the efficacy of vaccination. We found that repeated injections of M. tuberculosis vaccines (heat-killed M. tuberculosis in incomplete Freund’s adjuvant, such as Montanide) but not single or control vaccines without M. tuberculosis strongly expanded CD11b+ myeloid cells in the spleen, leading to T cell suppression of proliferation and killing ex vivo. Dead M. tuberculosis vaccination induced the generation of CD11b+Ly6ChiCD115+ iNOS/Nos2+ monocytic MDSCs (M-MDSCs) upon application of inflammatory or microbial activation signals. In vivo these M-MDSCs were positioned strategically in the splenic bridging channels and then positioned in the white pulp areas. Notably, within 6–24 hours, in a Nos2-dependent fashion, they produced NO to rapidly kill conventional and plasmacytoid DCs while, surprisingly, sparing T cells in vivo. Thus, we demonstrate that M. tuberculosis vaccine induced M-MDSCs do not directly suppress effector T cells in vivo but, instead, indirectly by killing DCs. Collectively, we demonstrate that M. tuberculosis booster vaccines induce M-MDSCs in the spleen that can be activated to kill DCs. Our data suggest that formation of MDSCs by M. tuberculosis vaccines should be investigated also in clinical trials.


Eliana Ribechini, Ina Eckert, Andreas Beilhack, Nelita Du Plessis, Gerhard Walzl, Ulrike Schleicher, Uwe Ritter, Manfred B. Lutz


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