John D Blischak , Ludovic Tailleux , Amy Mitrano , Luis B Barreiro , Yoav Gilad
The innate immune system provides the first response to pathogen infection and orchestrates the activation of the adaptive immune system. Though a large component of the innate immune response is common to all infections, pathogen-specific responses have been documented as well. The innate immune response is thought to be especially critical for fighting infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB), the causative agent of tuberculosis (TB). While TB can be deadly, only 5-10% of individuals infected with MTB develop active disease. The risk for disease susceptibility is, at least partly, heritable. Studies of inter-individual variation in the innate immune response to MTB infection may therefore shed light on the genetic basis for variation in susceptibility to TB. Yet, to date, we still do not know which properties of the innate immune response are specific to MTB infection and which represent a general response to pathogen infection. To begin addressing this gap, we infected macrophages with eight different bacteria, including different MTB strains and related mycobacteria, and studied the transcriptional response to infection. Although the ensued gene regulatory responses were largely consistent across the bacterial infection treatments, we were able to identify a novel subset of genes whose regulation was affected specifically by infection with mycobacteria. Genetic variants that are associated with regulatory differences in these genes should be considered candidate loci for explaining inter-individual susceptibility TB.