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MR1-restricted MAIT cells from the human lung mucosal surface have distinct phenotypic, functional, and transcriptomic features that are preserved in HIV infection

By Sharon Khuzwayo, Maphe Mthembu, Erin W Meermeier, Sanjay M Prakadan, Samuel W. Kazer, Thierry Bassett, Kennedy Nyamande, Dilshaad Fakey Khan, Priya Maharaj, Mohammed Mitha, Moosa Suleman, Zoey Mhlane, Dirhona Ramjit, Farina Khan, Alex K Shalek, David M Lewinsohn, Thumbi Ndung'u, Emily B. Wong

Posted 20 Nov 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.11.19.389858

Mucosal associated invariant T (MAIT) cells are a class of innate-like T cells that utilize a semi-invariant {beta} T cell receptor to recognize small molecule ligands produced by bacteria and fungi. Despite growing evidence that immune cells at mucosal surfaces are often phenotypically and functionally distinct from those in the peripheral circulation, knowledge about the characteristics of MAIT cells at the lung mucosal surface, the site of exposure to respiratory pathogens, is limited. HIV infection has been shown to have a profound effect on the number and function of MAIT cells in the peripheral blood, but its effect on lung mucosal MAIT cells is unknown. We examined the phenotypic, functional, and transcriptomic features of MR1 restricted MAIT cells from the peripheral blood and bronchoalveolar compartments of otherwise healthy individuals with latent Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection who were either HIV uninfected or HIV infected. Peripheral blood MAIT cells consistently co-expressed typical MAIT cell surface markers CD161 and CD26 in healthy individuals, while paired bronchoalveolar MAIT cells displayed heterogenous expression of these markers. Bronchoalveolar MAIT cells produced lower levels of pro-inflammatory cytokine IFN-{gamma} and expressed higher levels of co-inhibitory markers PD-1 and TIM-3 than peripheral MAIT cells. HIV infection resulted in decreased frequencies and pro-inflammatory function of peripheral blood MAIT cells, while in the bronchoalveolar compartment MAIT cell frequency was decreased but phenotype and function were not significantly altered. Single-cell transcriptomic analysis demonstrated greater heterogeneity among bronchoalveolar compared to peripheral blood MAIT cells and suggested a distinct subset in the bronchoalveolar compartment. The transcriptional features of this bronchoalveolar subset were associated with atypical MAIT cells and tissue repair functions. In summary, we found previously undescribed phenotypic and transcriptional heterogeneity of bronchoalveolar MAIT cells in healthy people. In HIV infection, we found numeric depletion of MAIT cells in both anatomical compartments but preservation of the novel phenotypic and transcriptional features of bronchoalveolar MAIT cells.

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