Aggregation state of Mycobacterium tuberculosis impacts host immunity and augments pulmonary disease pathology

Academic Article


  • In vitro phagocytosis of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) aggregates (Mtb-AG), rather than similar numbers of single bacilli (Mtb-SC), induces host macrophage death and favors bacterial growth. Here, we examined whether aggregation contributes to enhanced Mtb pathogenicity in vivo in rabbit lungs. Rabbits were exposed to infectious aerosols containing mainly Mtb-AG or Mtb-SC. The lung bacterial load, systemic immune response, histology, and immune cell composition were investigated over time. Genome-wide transcriptome analysis, cellular and tissue-level assays, and immunofluorescent imaging were performed on lung tissue to define and compare immune activation and pathogenesis between Mtb-AG and Mtb-SC infection. Lung bacillary loads, disease scores, lesion size, and structure were significantly higher in Mtb-AG than Mtb-SC infected animals. Differences in immune cell distribution and activation were noted in the lungs of the two groups of infected animals. Consistently larger lung granulomas with large aggregates of Mtb, extensive necrotic foci, and elevated matrix metalloproteases expression were observed in Mtb-AG infected rabbits. Our findings suggest that bacillary aggregation increases Mtb fitness for improved growth and accelerates lung inflammation and infected host cell death, thereby exacerbating disease pathology in the lungs.
  • Authors

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Kolloli A; Kumar R; Singh P; Narang A; Kaplan G; Sigal A; Subbian S
  • Volume

  • 4
  • Issue

  • 1