Tim-3 pathway affects NK cell impairment in patients with active tuberculosis

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Active tuberculosis (TB) patients show impaired NK cell function, and the underlying mechanism remains largely unknown. In this study, we confirmed the decrease in activation, cytokine secretion, and degranulation potential of NK cells in active TB patients. We further investigated whether coinhibitory receptor Tim-3 was involved with impairment of NK cells. Our results revealed that the expression of Tim-3 on NK cells was increased in active TB patients. Tim-3 expression was inversely correlated with IL-12-stimualted IFN-γ production. Moreover, blocking the Tim-3 pathway restored IFN-γ secretion and degranulation of NK cells. Blocking this pathway also increased NK cell cytotoxicity against K562 target cells, and improved the ability of NK cells to control Mtb growth in monocyte-derived macrophages. The Tim-3 expression on NK cells was also observed to be significantly decreased in TB patients post-treatment. In this study, we have identified that Tim-3 is involved with NK cell impairment in TB patients.

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