Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 20011592
PLoS ONE 2009;4(12):e8272
BACKGROUND: High levels of death and morbidity worldwide caused by tuberculosis has stimulated efforts to develop a new vaccine to replace BCG. A number of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb)-specific antigens have been synthesised as recombinant subunit vaccines for clinical evaluation. Recently a fusion protein of TB antigen Ag85B combined with a second immunodominant TB antigen TB10.4 was emulsified with a novel non-phospholipid-based liposomal adjuvant to produce a new subunit vaccine, investigated here. Currently, there is no consensus as to whether or not long-term T cell memory depends on a source of persisting antigen. To explore this and questions regarding lifespan, phenotype and cytokine patterns of CD4 memory T cells, we developed an animal model in which vaccine-induced CD4 memory T cells could transfer immunity to irradiated recipients.
METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: The transfer of protective immunity using Ag85B-TB10.4-specific, CD45RB(low) CD62L(low) CD4 T cells was assessed in sub-lethally irradiated recipients following challenge with live BCG, used here as a surrogate for virulent Mtb. Donor T cells also carried an allotype marker allowing us to monitor numbers of antigen-specific, cytokine-producing CD4 T cells in recipients. The results showed that both Ag85B-TB10.4 and BCG vaccination induced immunity that could be transferred with a single injection of 3×10(6) CD4 T cells. Ten times fewer numbers of CD4 T cells (0.3×10(6)) from donors immunised with Ag85B-TB10.4 vaccine alone, transferred equivalent protection. CD4 T cells from donors primed by BCG and boosted with the vaccine similarly transferred protective immunity. When BCG challenge was delayed for 1 or 2 months after transfer (a test of memory T cell survival) recipients remained protected. Importantly, recipients that contained persisting antigen, either live BCG or inert vaccine, showed significantly higher levels of protection (p<0.01). Overall the numbers of IFN-gamma-producing CD4 T cells were poorly correlated with levels of protection.
CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: The Ag85B-TB10.4 vaccine, with or without BCG-priming, generated TB-specific CD4 T cells that transferred protective immunity in mice challenged with BCG. The level of protection was enhanced in recipients containing a residual source of specific antigen that could be either viable or inert.