Gansu Key Lab of Evidence Based Medicine and Clinical Transfer Medicine & Lanzhou Center for Tuberculosis Research, School of Basic Medical Sciences, Lanzhou University, 199 West Donggang Road, Lanzhou 730000, China; Institute of Pathogen Biology, School of Basic Medical Sciences, Lanzhou University, China. Electronic address: [Email]
Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M. tuberculosis) persistent infection might cause the dysfunction of hematopoiesis. To investigate whether M. tuberculosis persistent antigen stimulation impairs the proliferation and differentiation of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells characterized as lineage- c-Kit+ (LK cells), C57BL/6 mice were primed with Mycobacterium bovis Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) and boosted with a cocktail of M. tuberculosis antigens ESAT6, CFP10 and Mtb10.4-HspX (MH) along with adjuvant N, N'-dimethyl-N, N'-dioctadecylammonium bromide (DDA) plus polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid (Poly I:C) weekly for 12 or 22 weeks. The cytokine production by splenic T cells, proliferation of LK cells and transcriptional events during differentiation of bone marrow (BM) c-Kit+ cells were investigated. Meanwhile, the mice were treated with interleukin 2 (IL-2) and the therapeutic effects were analyzed. We found that antigen specific interferon-γ (IFN-γ) production by splenic CD4+ T cells increased following antigen stimulation for 12 weeks, but it declined after continuous stimulation for 22 weeks. The long-term exposure of mice to M. tuberculosis antigen compromised the proliferation of LK cells. Moreover, the expression of transcription factors in the c-Kit+ cells was adjusted, with up-regulation of IRF8 and Batf2 involved in myeloid differentiation and down-regulation of NOTCH1 and GATA2 participated in T-cell lineage commitment. The concentrations of IFN-γ in BM of the persistent antigen group were higher than that in sham control at the 12th week, while the concentrations of IL-2 in BM of the persistent antigen group were lower compared with the transient antigen stimulation control. Following IL-2 treatment, the concentrations of IL-2 in BM increased while IFN-γ got declined. IL-2 treatment could restore the expression levels of those transcription factors and the proliferating activity of LK cells impaired by persistent antigen stimulation. Our results indicate that M. tuberculosis antigen persistent stimulation decreases the proliferating activity of LK cells, promotes myelopoietic differentiation, and represses lymphopoietic differentiation as a consequence of elevated IFN-γ production. IL-2 supplementation contributes to maintaining the homeostasis of hemopoiesis.