Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Biomedical Sciences

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Dr Chinnaswamy Jagannath

Committee Member

Dr Bradley McIntyre

Committee Member

Dr Rick Wetsel

Committee Member

Dr Keri Smith

Committee Member

Dr Audrey Wanger


Tuberculosis is a major cause of death due to an infection in mankind. BCG vaccine protects against childhood tuberculosis although, it fails to protect against adult tuberculosis. BCG vaccine localizes to immature phagosomes of macrophages, and avoids lysosomal fusion, which decreases peptide antigen production. Peptides are essential for macrophage-mediated priming of CD4 and CD8 T cells respectively through MHC-II and MHC-I pathways. Furthermore, BCG reduces the expression of MHC-II in macrophages of mice after infection, through Toll-like receptor-1/2 (TLR-1/2) mediated signaling. In my first aim, I hypothesized that BCG-induced reduction of MHC-II levels in macrophages can decrease CD4 T cell function, while activation of other surface Toll-like receptors (TLR) can enhance CD4 T cell function. An in vitro antigen presentation model was used where, TLR activated macrophages presented an epitope of Ag85B, a major immunogen of BCG to CD4 T cells, and T cell derived IL-2 was quantitated as a measure of antigen presentation. Macrophages with BCG were poor presenters of Ag85B while, TLR-7/9/5/4 and 1/2 activation led to an enhanced antigen presentation. Furthermore, TLR-7/9 activation was found to down-regulate the degradation of MHC-II through ubiquitin ligase MARCH1, and also stimulate MHC-II expression through activation of AP-1 and CREB transcription elements via p38 and ERK1/2 MAP kinases. I conclude from Aim-I studies that TLR-7/9 ligands can be used as more effective ‘adjuvants’ for BCG vaccine.

In Aim-II, I evaluated the poor CD8 T cell function in BCG vaccinated mice thought to be due to a decreased leak of antigens into cytosol from immature phagosomes, which reduces the MHC-I mediated activation of CD8 T cells. I hypothesized that rapamycin co-treatment could boost CD8 T cell function since it was known to sort BCG vaccine into lysosomes increasing peptide generation, and it also enhanced the longevity of CD8 T cells. Since CD8 T cell function is a dynamic event better measurable in vivo, mice were given BCG vaccine with or without rapamycin injections and challenged with virulent Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Organs were analysed for tetramer or surface marker stained CD8 T cells using flow cytometry, and bacterial counts of organisms for evaluation of BCG-induced protection. Co-administration of rapamycin with BCG significantly increased the numbers of CD8 T cells in mice which developed into both short living effector- SLEC type of CD8 T cells, and memory precursor effector-MPEC type of longer-living CD8 T cells. Increased levels of tetramer specific-CD8 T cells correlated with a better protection against tuberculosis in rapamycin-BCG group compared to BCG vaccinated mice. When rapamycin-BCG mice were rested and re-challenged with M.tuberculosis, MPECs underwent stronger recall expansion and protected better against re-infection than mice vaccinated with BCG alone.

Since BCG induced immunity wanes with time in humans, we made two novel observations in this study that adjuvant activation of BCG vaccine and rapamycin co-treatment both lead to a stronger and longer vaccine-mediated immunity to tuberculosis.


Tuberculosis, Vaccine, Rapamycin, TLR, BCG, Immunity, Adjuvant, Mycobacterium Tuberculosis, T cells, Memory



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