Increasing evidence is now available showing that CD1-restricted T cell responses against non-peptide mycobacterial antigens could play a role in the immune resistance against tuberculosis. BCG, widely used in anti-tubercular vaccination, shares various constituents with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, but does not provide full protection. In the present study we have investigated the pattern of group 1 CD1 molecule expression in adherent mononuclear cells (AMNC) of human peripheral blood, infected in vitro with BCG. Shortly after exposure to BCG, both BCG-positive and BCG-negative AMNC showed a moderate CD1 expression elicited by BCG-induced release of GM-CSF presumably acting through an autocrine and a paracrine mechanism. This was demonstrated using two-color flow cytometry with green fluorescent BCG and anti-CD1 PE-labeled antibodies. However, high CD1 expression induced by exogenously added GM-CSF in AMNC was reduced if target cells were cocultivated with BCG. Monoclonal antibodies against IL-10 partially restored CD1 expression, thus showing that IL-10, released from infected AMNC, is involved, at least in part, in CD1 negative modulation. Therefore, through a complex cytokine network, including not yet identified factor(s), BCG triggers but does not allow full expression of CD1 on AMNC. It cannot be excluded that this mechanism could play a role in the limited efficiency of BCG vaccination.
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