Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Biomedical Sciences

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Jeffrey K. Actor, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michael R. Blackburn, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Robert L. Hunter, M.D., Ph.D.

Committee Member

Marian L. Kruzel, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Audrey Wanger, Ph.D.


Tuberculosis (TB) remains a major public health burden. The immunocompetant host responds to Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) infection by the formation of granulomas, which initially prevent uncontrolled bacterial proliferation and dissemination. However, increasing evidence suggests that granuloma formation promotes persistence of the organism by physically separating infected cells from effector lymphocytes and by inducing a state of non-replicating persistence in the bacilli, making them resistant to the action of antibiotics. Additionally, immune-mediated tissue destruction likely facilitates disease transmission. The granulomatous response is in part due to mycobacterial glycolipid antigens. Therefore, studies were first undertaken to determine the innate mechanisms of mycobacterial cord factor trehalose-6’6-dimycolate (TDM) on granuloma formation. Investigations using knock-out mice suggest that TNF-a is involved in the initiation of the granulomatous response, complement factor C5a generates granuloma cohesiveness, and IL-6 is necessary for maintenance of an established granulomatous responses. Studies were next performed to determine the ability of lactoferrin to modulate the immune response and pathology to mycobacterial cord factor. Lactoferrin is an iron-binding glycoprotein with immunomodulatory properties that decrease tissue damage and promote Th1 responses. Mice challenged with TDM and treated with lactoferrin had decreased size and numbers of granulomas at the peak of the granulomatous response, accompanied by increased IL-10 and TGF-b production. Finally, the ability of lactoferrin to serve as a novel therapeutic for the treatment of TB was performed by aerosol challenging mice with MTB and treating them with lactoferrin added to the drinking water. Mice given tap water had lung log10 CFUs of 7.5 ± 0.3 at week 3 post-infection. Lung CFUs were significantly decreased in mice given lactoferrin starting the day of infection (6.4 ± 0.7) and mice started therapeutically on lactoferrin at day 7 after established infection (6.5 ± 0.4). Total lung inflammation in lactoferrin treated mice was significantly decreased, with fewer areas of macrophages, increased total lymphocytes, and increased numbers of CD4+ and CD8+ cells. The lungs of lactoferrin treated mice had increased CD4+ IFN-g+ cells and IL-17 producing cells on ELISpot analysis. It is hypothesized that lactoferrin decreases bacterial burden during MTB infection by early induction of Th1 responses.


tuberculosis, granuloma, trehalose dimycolate, lactoferrin