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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  • RE: Human antimicrobial cytotoxic T lymphocytes, defined by NK receptors and antimicrobial proteins, kill intracellular bacteria
    • Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu, Associate Dean (Pacific)/Senior Lecturer Pathology & Molecular Medicine, Wellington School of Medicine & Health Sciences, University of Otago, New Zealand

    To the Editor,

    I read with keen interest the article authored by Balin S.J. et al (1) and entitled: “Human antimicrobial cytotoxic T lymphocytes, defined by NK receptors and antimicrobial proteins, kill intracellular bacteria.”

    This series of experiments sought to improve understanding of patterns of granule protein expression on human CD8+ T cell subsets and their antimicrobial activity and involved human leprosy studies.

    The authors of this work identified a CD8+ T cell subset capable of potent antimicrobial function and characterized by expression of the granzyme B (GZMB), perforin (PRF) and granulysin (GNLY) cytotoxic granule proteins, and NKG2C expression (surface marker for NK activating receptor) - identified by transcriptional profiling.

    As outlined, PRF’s role includes penetration of the eukaryotic cell membrane, to support GZMB and GNLY entry into the cell interior. GNLY causes damage to the intracellular bacteria by binding to the bacterial membrane, while GZMB induces bacterial apoptosis and also induces the production of ROS species after subsequent cleavage of oxidative stress defense proteins (2, 3).

    Of significant interest, was that the GZMB, PRF and GNLY expressing CD8+ T cell subset were present in increased frequencies in patients most resistant to infection. These CTL’s could also be expanded by IL-15 and displayed stronger antimicrobial activity than other CD8+ T cell subsets.

    An important consideration incl...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.