Research ArticleINFECTIOUS DISEASES

Human antimicrobial cytotoxic T lymphocytes, defined by NK receptors and antimicrobial proteins, kill intracellular bacteria

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Science Immunology  31 Aug 2018:
Vol. 3, Issue 26, eaat7668
DOI: 10.1126/sciimmunol.aat7668

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Killer trifecta

Cytotoxic granule proteins secreted by CD8+ T cells contribute to host immunity to intracellular bacterial pathogens by assisting in the killing of both infected cells and intracellular bacteria. Balin et al. studied the ability of subsets of human CD8+ T cells expressing different combinations of granule proteins to kill macrophages infected with Mycobacterium leprae. The CD8+ T cell subset with the highest efficiency of mycobacterial killing simultaneously expressed three granule proteins: granzyme B, perforin, and granulysin. Transcriptional profiling of CD8+ T cell subsets identified the NK-activating receptor NKG2C as a valuable surface marker for identification and enrichment of these potent antimicrobial CD8+ T cells. The results of this study define a specific lymphocyte subset needed for effective immune defense against human leprosy.