Lesion-Specific Immune Response in Granulomas of Patients with Pulmonary Tuberculosis: A Pilot Study
The formation and maintenance of granulomas is central to the host response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection. It is widely accepted that the lungs of patients with tuberculosis (TB) usually contain multiple infection foci, and that the granulomas evolve and differentiate independently, resulting in considerable heterogeneity. Although gene expression profiles of human blood cells have been proposed as biomarkers of Mtb infection and/or active disease, the immune profiles of discrete lesion types has not been studied extensively. Using histology, immunopathology and genome-wide transcriptome analysis, we explored the immunological profile of human lung TB granulomas. We show that although the different granulomas share core similarities in their immunological/inflammatory characteristics, they also exhibit significant divergence. Despite similar numbers of CD68+ macrophages in the different lesions, the extent of immune reactivity, as determined by the density of CD3+ T cells in the macrophage rich areas, and the extent of fibrosis, shows considerable variation. Both quantitative and qualitative differences among significantly differentially expressed genes (SDEG) were noted in each of the lesion types studied. Further, network/pathway analysis of SDEG revealed differential regulation of inflammatory response, immune cell trafficking, and cell mediated immune response in the different lesions. Our data highlight the formidable challenges facing ongoing efforts to identify peripheral blood biomarkers due to the diversity of lesion types and complexity of local immune responses in the lung.