C57Bl/6 female mice were infected with an intrapulmonary dose of 2.5 x 10(4) BCG (Mycobacterium bovis Bacillus Calmette-Guerin). Lymphocyte populations in lung interstitium and lung-associated tracheal lymph nodes (LN) were examined at 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 12 weeks after infection. BCG load in lungs peaked between 4-6 weeks post-infection and declined to very low levels by the 12th week of infection. Lung leukocytes were obtained over the course of infection by enzyme digestion of lung tissue followed by centrifugation over Percoll discontinuous density gradients. By 4 to 6 weeks after infection, numbers of lung leukocytes had more than doubled but the proportions of lymphocytes (about 70%), macrophages (about 18%) and granulocytes (about 12%) remained essentially unaltered. Flow cytometric studies indicated: (i) the total number of CD3+ T cells in lungs increased by 3-fold relative to uninfected controls at 5 to 6 weeks post-infection, but the relative proportions of CD4 and CD8 cells within the T cell compartment remained unaltered; (ii) relative proportion of NK cells in lungs declined by 30% but the total number of NK cells (NK1.1+) per lung increased by about 50%, 5-6 weeks post infection; (iii) tracheal LN underwent marked increase in size and cell recoveries (6-10-fold increase) beginning 4 weeks after infection. While both T and B cells contributed to the increase in cell recoveries from infected tracheal LNs, the T/B ratio declined significantly but CD4/CD8 ratio remained unaltered. In control mice, IFNgamma producing non-T cells outnumbered T cells producing IFNgamma. However, as the adaptive response to infection evolves, marked increase occur in the number of IFNgamma producing T cells, but not NK cells in the lungs. Thus, T cells are the primary cell type responsible for the adaptive IFNgamma response to pulmonary BCG infection. Few T cells in tracheal LN of BCG infected mice produce IFNgamma, suggesting that maturational changes associated with migration to the lungs or residence in the lungs enhance the capability of some T cells to produce this cytokine.
Schooll of Life Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi 110 067, India