Functional and Activation Profiles of Mucosal-Associated Invariant T Cells in Patients With Tuberculosis and HIV in a High Endemic Setting

Avuyonke Balfour, Charlotte Schutz, Rene Goliath, Katalin A. Wilkinson, Sumaya Sayed, Bianca Sossen, Jean Paul Kanyik, Amy Ward, Rhandzu Ndzhukule, Anele Gela, David M. Lewinsohn, Deborah A. Lewinsohn, Graeme Meintjes, Muki Shey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: MAIT cells are non-classically restricted T lymphocytes that recognize and rapidly respond to microbial metabolites or cytokines and have the capacity to kill bacteria-infected cells. Circulating MAIT cell numbers generally decrease in patients with active TB and HIV infection, but findings regarding functional changes differ. Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study on the effect of HIV, TB, and HIV-associated TB (HIV-TB) on MAIT cell frequencies, activation and functional profile in a high TB endemic setting in South Africa. Blood was collected from (i) healthy controls (HC, n = 26), 24 of whom had LTBI, (ii) individuals with active TB (aTB, n = 36), (iii) individuals with HIV infection (HIV, n = 50), 37 of whom had LTBI, and (iv) individuals with HIV-associated TB (HIV-TB, n = 26). All TB participants were newly diagnosed and sampled before treatment, additional samples were also collected from 18 participants in the aTB group after 10 weeks of TB treatment. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) stimulated with BCG-expressing GFP (BCG-GFP) and heat-killed (HK) Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.tb) were analyzed using flow cytometry. MAIT cells were defined as CD3+ CD161+ Vα7.2+ T cells. Results: Circulating MAIT cell frequencies were depleted in individuals with HIV infection (p = 0.009). MAIT cells showed reduced CD107a expression in aTB (p = 0.006), and reduced IFNγ expression in aTB (p < 0.001) and in HIV-TB (p < 0.001) in response to BCG-GFP stimulation. This functional impairment was coupled with a significant increase in activation (defined by HLA-DR expression) in resting MAIT cells from HIV (p < 0.001), aTB (p = 0.019), and HIV-TB (p = 0.005) patients, and higher HLA-DR expression in MAIT cells expressing IFNγ in aTB (p = 0.009) and HIV-TB (p = 0.002) after stimulation with BCG-GFP and HK-M.tb. After 10 weeks of TB treatment, there was reversion in the observed functional impairment in total MAIT cells, with increases in CD107a (p = 0.020) and IFNγ (p = 0.010) expression. Conclusions: Frequencies and functional profile of MAIT cells in response to mycobacterial stimulation are significantly decreased in HIV infected persons, active TB and HIV-associated TB, with a concomitant increase in MAIT cell activation. These alterations may reduce the capacity of MAIT cells to play a protective role in the immune response to these two pathogens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number648216
JournalFrontiers in immunology
StatePublished - Mar 22 2021


  • MAIT activation
  • MAIT cell
  • MAIT cell function
  • human immunodeficiency virus
  • tuberculosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


Dive into the research topics of 'Functional and Activation Profiles of Mucosal-Associated Invariant T Cells in Patients With Tuberculosis and HIV in a High Endemic Setting'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this