Verma D, Parasa VR, Raffetseder J, Martis M, Mehta RB, Netea M, Lerm M
Sci Rep 7 (1) 12305 [2017-09-26; online 2017-09-26]
The reason for the largely variable protective effect against TB of the vaccine Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) is not understood. In this study, we investigated whether epigenetic mechanisms are involved in the response of immune cells to the BCG vaccine. We isolated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from BCG-vaccinated subjects and performed global DNA methylation analysis in combination with functional assays representative of innate immunity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection. Enhanced containment of replication was observed in monocyte-derived macrophages from a sub-group of BCG-vaccinated individuals (identified as 'responders'). A stable and robust differential DNA methylation pattern in response to BCG could be observed in PBMCs isolated from the responders but not from the non-responders. Gene ontology analysis revealed that promoters with altered DNA methylation pattern were strongly enriched among genes belonging to immune pathways in responders, however no enrichments could be observed in the non-responders. Our findings suggest that BCG-induced epigenetic reprogramming of immune cell function can enhance anti-mycobacterial immunity in macrophages. Understanding why BCG induces this response in responders but not in non-responders could provide clues to improvement of TB vaccine efficacy.