Augmentation of the Riboflavin-Biosynthetic Pathway Enhances Mucosa-Associated Invariant T (MAIT) Cell Activation and Diminishes Mycobacterium tuberculosis Virulence

Ruchi Jain Dey, Bappaditya Dey, Melanie Harriff, Elizabeth T. Canfield, David M. Lewinsohn, William R. Bishai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Mucosa-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells play a critical role in antimicrobial defense. Despite increased understanding of their mycobacterial ligands and the clinical association of MAIT cells with tuberculosis (TB), their function in protection against Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection remains unclear. Here, we show that overexpressing key genes of the riboflavin-biosynthetic pathway potentiates MAIT cell activation and results in attenuation of M. tuberculosis virulence in vivo. Further, we observed greater control of M. tuberculosis infection in MAIThi CAST/EiJ mice than in MAITlo C57BL/6J mice, highlighting the protective role of MAIT cells against TB. We also endogenously adjuvanted Mycobacterium bovis BCG with MR1 ligands via overexpression of the lumazine synthase gene ribH and evaluated its protective efficacy in the mouse model of M. tuberculosis infection. Altogether, our findings demonstrate that MAIT cells confer host protection against TB and that overexpression of genes in the riboflavin-biosynthetic pathway attenuates M. tuberculosis virulence. Enhancing MAIT cell-mediated immunity may also offer a novel approach toward improved vaccines against TB. IMPORTANCE Mucosa-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells are an important subset of innate lymphocytes that recognize microbial ligands derived from the riboflavin biosynthesis pathway and mediate antimicrobial immune responses. Modulated MAIT cell responses have been noted in different forms of tuberculosis. However, it has been unclear if increased MAIT cell abundance is protective against TB disease. In this study, we show that augmentation of the mycobacterial MAIT cell ligands leads to higher MAIT cell activation with reduced M. tuberculosis virulence and that elevated MAIT cell abundance confers greater control of M. tuberculosis infection. Our study also highlights the potential of endogenously adjuvanting the traditional BCG vaccine with MR1 ligands to augment MAIT cell activation. This study increases current knowledge on the roles of the riboflavin-biosynthetic pathway and MAIT cell activation in M. tuberculosis virulence and host immunity against TB.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere03865
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022


  • BCG
  • MAIT cells
  • Mucosal immunity
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • Riboflavin
  • Tuberculosis
  • Tuberculosis vaccines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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