Infections with mycobacteria, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) and Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis) BCG, are a leading cause of morbidity and mortality for HIV-infected persons. In contrast to HIV, nonpathogenic SIV infections of sooty mangabeys are characterized by a lack of clinical disease including an absence of opportunistic infections. The goal of this study was to identify innate immune responses to M. bovis BCG maintained during nonpathogenic lentiviral infections through a comparison of functional responses during pathogenic HIV or nonpathogenic SIV infections. Monocytes were evaluated for their ability to express key anti-mycobacterial cytokines TNF-alpha and IL-12 following a six-hour ex vivo BCG exposure. While HIV-infection was associated with a decreased percentage of IL-12-producing monocytes, nonpathogenic SIV-infection was associated with an increased percentage of monocytes producing both cytokines. Gene expression analysis of PBMC following ex vivo BCG exposure identified differential expression of NK cell-related genes and several cytokines, including IFN-gamma and IL-23, between HIV-infected and control subjects. In contrast, SIV-infected and uninfected-control mangabeys exhibited no significant differences in gene expression after BCG exposure. Finally, differential gene expression patterns were identified between species, with mangabeys exhibiting lower IL-6 and higher IL-17 in response to BCG when compared to humans. Overall, this comparison of immune responses to M. bovis BCG identified unique immune signatures (involving cytokines IL-12, TNF-alpha, IL-23, IL-17, and IL-6) that are altered during HIV, but maintained or increased during nonpathogenic SIV infections. These unique cytokine and transcriptome signatures provide insight into the differential immune responses to Mycobacteria during pathogenic HIV-infection that may be associated with an increased incidence of mycobacterial co-infections.
Gasper, M. A., Biswas, S. P., Fisher, B. S., Ehnert, S. C., Sherman, D. R., & Sodora, D. L. (2016). Nonpathogenic SIV and pathogenic HIV infections associate with disparate innate cytokine signatures in response to mycobacterium bovis BCG. PLoS ONE, 11(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0158149