Mycobacterium tuberculosis–specific (M. tuberculosis–specific) T cell responses associated with immune control during asymptomatic latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) remain poorly understood. Using a nonhuman primate aerosol model, we studied the kinetics, phenotypes, and functions of M. tuberculosis antigen-specific T cells in peripheral and lung compartments of M. tuberculosis–infected asymptomatic rhesus macaques by longitudinally sampling blood and bronchoalveolar lavage, for up to 24 weeks postinfection. We found substantially higher frequencies of M. tuberculosis–specific effector and memory CD4+ and CD8+ T cells producing IFN-γ in the airways compared with peripheral blood, and these frequencies were maintained throughout the study period. Moreover, M. tuberculosis–specific IL-17+ and IL-17+IFN-γ+ double-positive T cells were present in the airways but were largely absent in the periphery, suggesting that balanced mucosal Th1/Th17 responses are associated with LTBI. The majority of M. tuberculosis–specific CD4+ T cells that homed to the airways expressed the chemokine receptor CXCR3 and coexpressed CCR6. Notably, CXCR3+CD4+ cells were found in granulomatous and nongranulomatous regions of the lung and inversely correlated with M. tuberculosis burden. Our findings provide insights into antigen-specific T cell responses associated with asymptomatic M. tuberculosis infection that are relevant for developing better strategies to control TB.


Uma Shanmugasundaram, Allison N. Bucsan, Shashank R. Ganatra, Chris Ibegbu, Melanie Quezada, Robert V. Blair, Xavier Alvarez, Vijayakumar Velu, Deepak Kaushal, Jyothi Rengarajan


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