Friday, March 26, 2010

Rapamycin-induced Stress Stimulates anti-Tuberculosis Immunity

Tuberculosis (Tb) is an intracellular mycobacterium that causes 9 million illnesses and nearly 2 million deaths annually world-wide. One third of humans are chronically infected and about 9 million are infected every year, which a vaccine could prevent.

Stressing cells infected by Tb has been shown to induce autophagy ("self-eating", free review), increase presentation of Tb antigens on the infected cell surface, and stimulate specific T lymphocytes. This group found that rapamycin, a pharmaceutical drug used to suppress immunity after solid organ transplantation, induces autophagy and improves immune recognition of Tb. This figure shows that rapamycin treatment of dendritic cells causes a >10-fold increase in their ability to induce anti-Tb immunity in mice (Fig. 5e). Most of the cell culture experiments aimed at dissecting this effect show a much more modest effect of extremely high doses of rapamycin (1 mM!). Oddly, many of the early figures measure IL-2, a hallmark of the T lymphocyte response, even though rapamycin's mode of action inhibiting IL-2 activity would seem to confound the interpretation of the results.

Could this adjuvant effect be translated into a vaccine strategy?

Jagannath C, Lindsey DR, Dhandayuthapani S, Xu Y, Hunter RL Jr, Eissa NT. Autophagy enhances the efficacy of BCG vaccine by increasing peptide presentation in mouse dendritic cells. Nat Med. 2009 Mar;15(3):267-76.