The role of CD8 T cells in anti-tuberculosis immunity in humans remains unknown, and studies of CD8 T cell–mediated protection against tuberculosis in mice have yielded controversial results. Unlike mice, humans and nonhuman primates share a number of important features of the immune system that relate directly to the specificity and functions of CD8 T cells, such as the expression of group 1 CD1 proteins that are capable of presenting Mycobacterium tuberculosis lipids antigens and the cytotoxic/bactericidal protein granulysin. Employing a more relevant nonhuman primate model of human tuberculosis, we examined the contribution of BCG- or M. tuberculosis-elicited CD8 T cells to vaccine-induced immunity against tuberculosis. CD8 depletion compromised BCG vaccine-induced immune control of M. tuberculosis replication in the vaccinated rhesus macaques. Depletion of CD8 T cells in BCG-vaccinated rhesus macaques led to a significant decrease in the vaccine-induced immunity against tuberculosis. Consistently, depletion of CD8 T cells in rhesus macaques that had been previously infected with M. tuberculosis and cured by antibiotic therapy also resulted in a loss of anti-tuberculosis immunity upon M. tuberculosis re-infection. The current study demonstrates a major role for CD8 T cells in anti-tuberculosis immunity, and supports the view that CD8 T cells should be included in strategies for development of new tuberculosis vaccines and immunotherapeutics
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