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Tuberculous meningitis is characterized by cerebral tissue destruction. Monocytes, pivotal in immune responses to Mycobacterium tuberculosis, secrete matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9), which facilitates leukocyte migration across the blood-brain barrier, but may cause cerebral injury. In vitro, human monocytic (THP-1) cells infected by live, virulent M. tuberculosis secreted MMP-9 in a dose-dependent manner. At 24 h, MMP-9 concentrations increased 10-fold to 239 +/- 75 ng/ml (p = 0.001 vs controls). MMP-9 mRNA became detectable at 24--48 h. In contrast, tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinase-1 (TIMP-1) gene expression and secretion were similar to constitutive levels from controls at 24 h and increased just 5-fold by 48 h. In vivo investigation revealed MMP-9 concentration per leukocyte in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from tuberculous meningitis patients (n = 23; median (range), 3.19 (0.19--31.00) ng/ml/cell) to be higher than that in bacterial (n = 12; 0.23 (0.01--18.37) ng/ml/cell) or viral meningitis (n = 20; 0.20 (0.04--31.00) ng/ml/cell; p < 0.01). TIMP-1, which was constitutively secreted into CSF, was not elevated in tuberculous compared with bacterial meningitis or controls. Thus, a phenotype in which MMP-9 activity is relatively unrestricted by TIMP-1 developed both in vitro and in vivo. This is functionally significant, since MMP-9 concentrations per CSF leukocyte (but not TIMP-1 concentrations) were elevated in fatal tuberculous meningitis and in patients with signs of cerebral tissue damage (unconsciousness, confusion, or neurological deficit; p < 0.05). However, MMP-9 activity was unrelated to the severity of systemic illness. In summary, M. tuberculosis-infected monocytic cells develop a matrix-degrading phenotype, which was observed in vivo and relates to clinical signs reflecting cerebral injury in tuberculous meningitis.

Original publication




Journal article


J Immunol

Publication Date





4223 - 4230


Adult, Cell Line, Enzyme Activation, Extracellular Matrix, Female, Gene Expression Regulation, Humans, Leukocyte Count, Matrix Metalloproteinase 9, Meningitis, Bacterial, Meningitis, Viral, Monocytes, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Phenotype, Tissue Inhibitor of Metalloproteinase-1, Transcription, Genetic, Tuberculosis, Meningeal