Abstract Background Lymph node tuberculosis (LNTB) is the most frequent extrapulmonary form of tuberculosis (TB). Studies of human tuberculosis at sites of disease are limited. LNTB provides a unique opportunity to compare local in situ and peripheral blood immune response in active Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) disease. The present study analysed T regulatory cells (Treg) frequency and activation along with CD4+ T cell function in lymph nodes from LNTB patients. Results Lymph node mononuclear cells (LNMC) were compared to autologous peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). LNMC were enriched for CD4+ T cells with a late differentiated effector memory phenotype. No differences were noted in the frequency and mutifunctional profile of memory CD4+ T cells specific for Mtb. The proportion of activated CD4+ and Tregs in LNMC was increased compared to PBMC. The correlation between Tregs and activated CD4+ T cells was stronger in LNMC than PBMC. Tregs in LNMC showed a strong positive correlation with Th1 cytokine production (IL2, IFNγ and TNFα) as well as MIP-1α after Mtb antigen stimulation. A subset of Tregs in LNMC co-expressed HLA-DR and CD38, markers of activation. Conclusion Further research will determine the functional relationship between Treg and activated CD4+ T cells at lymph node sites of Mtb infection
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