The PD-1/PD-L1 pathway is critical in T cell biology; however, the role of the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway in clinical characteristics and treatment outcomes in pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB) patients is unclear. We prospectively enrolled PTB, latent TB infection (LTBI), and non-TB, non-LTBI subjects. The expression of PD-1/PD-L1 on peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) was measured and correlated with clinical characteristics and treatment outcomes in PTB patients. Immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence were used to visualize PD-1/PD-L1-expressing cells in lung tissues from PTB patients and from murine with heat-killed MTB (HK-MTB) treatment. A total of 76 PTB, 40 LTBI, and 28 non-TB, non-LTBI subjects were enrolled. The expression of PD-1 on CD4+ T cells and PD-L1 on CD14+ monocytes was significantly higher in PTB cases than non-TB subjects. PTB patients with sputum smear/culture unconversion displayed higher PD-L1 expression on monocytes. PD-L1-expressing macrophages were identified in lung tissue from PTB patients, and co-localized with macrophages in murine lung tissues. Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) whole cell lysate/EsxA stimulation of human and mouse macrophages demonstrated increased PD-L1 expression. In conclusion, increased expression of PD-L1 on monocytes in PTB patients correlated with higher bacterial burden and worse treatment outcomes. The findings suggest the involvement of the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway in MTB-related immune responses.
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