Cellular and humoral immune response to a phenolic glycolipid antigen (PhenGL-I) in patients with leprosy

F. T. Koster, D. M. Scollard, E. T. Umland, D. B. Fishbein, W. C. Hanly, P. J. Brennan, K. E. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ability of phenolic glycolipid I (PhenGL-I) of Mycobacterium leprae to stimulate in vitro lymphocyte proliferation (LP) was tested in cultures of peripheral blood cells from 42 patients with leprosy in Chicago and Thailand, 9 individuals with household contact in Thailand, and 10 unexposed North American controls. Only 10 responders (24%) were found among the patients, and the degree of LP was small. Responders were found among patients with lepromatous (18%) or tuberculoid (30%) leprosy without relation to age, complications, duration of treatment, or lepromin responsiveness. The specificity of the response was supported by a lack of response to two other glycolipids, by responses by T cells but not B cells, and by the observation that three of four responders tested maintained their responses to PhenGL-I for at least 1 year. Serum immunoglobulin M (IgM) and IgG antibodies were measured in the same patients by using PhenGL-I or its terminal monosaccharide conjugated to a bovine serum albumin carrier in an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. The presence of IgM antibody correlated negatively with LP to lepromin and to PhenGL-I in patients with tuberculoid leprosy. We conclude that circulating T cells from some leprosy patients proliferate in the presence of PhenGL-I in vitro, but the response is weak, possibly due to concomitant suppression or inhibition. The predominance of IgM antibody to PhenGL-I may be related to a lack of a T-helper-cell-mediated switch to IgG antibody response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)551-556
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of clinical microbiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1987
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)


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