We have assessed the kinetics of host gene expression in granulomas of mice infected with virulent Mycobacterium tuberculosis, using an approach that incorporates the laser capture microdissection (LCM) and real-time PCR technology in conjunction with a newly derived mathematical equation. The results have provided evidence indicating that conventional use of whole infected lungs to study granuloma-specific gene expression can yield data that may not genuinely reflect intralesional events. Significantly, the expression of nine host genes known to regulate the inflammatory response to M. tuberculosis, as determined by real-time PCR analysis of microdissected granuloma-derived cDNAs, was downregulated (up to 27-fold) at around the time when the rapid growth phase of the bacilli in the lungs of infected mice ends. This downregulation was masked when whole infected lungs were used for the studies. The data suggest that the host immune system can adjust and respond to, or can be modulated by specific physiological states of the tubercle bacillus in vivo. The LCM/real-time PCR-based system described in this study can be applied to safely and accurately evaluate gene expression in any lesions that can be microscopically visualized, including those contained in biohazardous tissues.
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