Phenotypic and functional profiling of CD4 T cell compartment in distinct populations of healthy adults with different antigenic exposure.
Roetynck S., Olotu A., Simam J., Marsh K., Stockinger B., Urban B., Langhorne J.
BACKGROUND: Multiparameter flow cytometry has revealed extensive phenotypic and functional heterogeneity of CD4 T cell responses in mice and humans, emphasizing the importance of assessing multiple aspects of the immune response in correlation with infection or vaccination outcome. The aim of this study was to establish and validate reliable and feasible flow cytometry assays, which will allow us to characterize CD4 T cell population in humans in field studies more fully. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We developed polychromatic flow cytometry antibody panels for immunophenotyping the major CD4 T cell subsets as well as broadly characterizing the functional profiles of the CD4 T cells in peripheral blood. We then validated these assays by conducting a pilot study comparing CD4 T cell responses in distinct populations of healthy adults living in either rural or urban Kenya. This study revealed that the expression profile of CD4 T cell activation and memory markers differed significantly between African and European donors but was similar amongst African individuals from either rural or urban areas. Adults from rural Kenya had, however, higher frequencies and greater polyfunctionality among cytokine producing CD4 T cells compared to both urban populations, particularly for "Th1" type of response. Finally, endemic exposure to malaria in rural Kenya may have influenced the expansion of few discrete CD4 T cell populations with specific functional signatures. CONCLUSION/SIGNIFICANCE: These findings suggest that environmentally driven T cell activation does not drive the dysfunction of CD4 T cells but is rather associated with greater magnitude and quality of CD4 T cell response, indicating that the level or type of microbial exposure and antigenic experience may influence and shape the functionality of CD4 T cell compartment. Our data confirm that it is possible and mandatory to assess multiple functional attributes of CD4 T cell response in the context of infection.