The hypervirulent Mycobacterium tuberculosis strain HN878 induces a potent TH1 response followed by rapid down-regulation.
The HN878 strain of Mycobacterium tuberculosis is regarded as "hypervirulent" due to its rapid growth and reduced survival of infected mice when compared with other clinical isolates. This property has been ascribed due to an early increase in type I IFNs and a failure to generate TH1-mediated immunity, induced by a response to an unusual cell wall phenolic glycolipid expressed by the HN878 isolate. We show, however, that although type I IFN does play an inhibitory role, this response was most apparent during the chronic disease stage and was common to all M. tuberculosis strains tested. In addition, we further demonstrate that the HN878 infection was associated with a potent TH1 response, characterized by the emergence of both CD4 and CD8 T cell subsets secreting IFN-gamma. However, where HN878 differed to the other strains tested was a subsequent reduction in TH1 immunity, which was temporally associated with the rapid emergence of a CD4+CD25+FoxP3+CD223+IL-10+ regulatory T cell population. This association may explain the paradoxical initial emergence of a TH1 response in these mice but their relatively short time of survival.