Clinical science (London, England : 1979) 2017 07 05131(15) 1859-1876 doi 10.1042/CS20170205
T-cell responses have been demonstrated to be essential for preventing Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection. The Th1-cytokines produced by T cells, such as INF-γ, IL-2, and TNF-α, not only limit the invasion of M. tuberculosis but also eliminate the pathogen at the site of infection. Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) is known to induce Th1-type responses but the protection is inadequate. Identification of immunogenic components, in addition to those expressed in BCG, and induction of a broad spectrum of Th1-type responses provide options for generating sufficient adaptive immunity. Here, we studied human pulmonary T-cell responses induced by the M. tuberculosis-specific antigen Rv3615c, a protein with a similar size and sequence homology to ESAT-6 and CFP-10, which induced dominant CD4(+) T-cell responses in human tuberculosis (TB) models. We characterized T-cell responses including cytokine profiling, kinetics of activation, expansion, differentiation, TCR usage, and signaling of activation induced by Rv3615c compared with other M. tuberculosis-specific antigens. The expanded CD4(+) T cells induced by Rv3615c predominately produced Th1, but less Th2 and Th17, cytokines and displayed effector/memory phenotypes (CD45RO(+)CD27(-)CD127(-)CCR7(-)). The magnitude of expansion and cytokine production was comparable to those induced by well-characterized the 6 kDa early secreted antigenic target (ESAT-6), the 10 kDa culture filtrate protein (CFP-10) and BCG. Rv3615c contained multiple epitopes Rv3615c1-15, Rv3615c6-20, Rv3615c66-80, Rv3615c71-85 and Rv3615c76-90 that activated CD4(+) T cells. The Rv3615c-specific CD4(+) T cells shared biased of T-cell receptor variable region of β chain (TCR Vβ) 1, 2, 4, 5.1, 7.1, 7.2 and/or 22 chains to promote their differentiation and proliferation respectively, by triggering a signaling cascade. Our data suggest that Rv3615c is a major target of Th1-type responses and can be a highly immunodominant antigen specific for M. tuberculosis infection.