Oxygen modulates the effectiveness of granuloma mediated host response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis: A multiscale computational biology approach

Cheryl L. Sershen, Steven J. Plimpton, Elebeoba E. May

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Mycobacterium tuberculosis associated granuloma formation can be viewed as a structural immune response that can contain and halt the spread of the pathogen. In several mammalian hosts, including non-human primates, Mtb granulomas are often hypoxic, although this has not been observed in wild type murine infection models. While a presumed consequence, the structural contribution of the granuloma to oxygen limitation and the concomitant impact on Mtb metabolic viability and persistence remains to be fully explored. We develop a multiscale computational model to test to what extent in vivo Mtb granulomas become hypoxic, and investigate the effects of hypoxia on host immune response efficacy and mycobacterial persistence. Our study integrates a physiological model of oxygen dynamics in the extracellular space of alveolar tissue, an agent-based model of cellular immune response, and a systems biology-based model of Mtb metabolic dynamics. Our theoretical studies suggest that the dynamics of granuloma organization mediates oxygen availability and illustrates the immunological contribution of this structural host response to infection outcome. Furthermore, our integrated model demonstrates the link between structural immune response and mechanistic drivers influencing Mtbs adaptation to its changing microenvironment and the qualitative infection outcome scenarios of clearance, containment, dissemination, and a newly observed theoretical outcome of transient containment. We observed hypoxic regions in the containment granuloma similar in size to granulomas found in mammalian in vivo models of Mtb infection. In the case of the containment outcome, our model uniquely demonstrates that immune response mediated hypoxic conditions help foster the shift down of bacteria through two stages of adaptation similar to thein vitro non-replicating persistence (NRP) observed in the Wayne model of Mtb dormancy. The adaptation in part contributes to the ability of Mtb to remain dormant for years after initial infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6
JournalFrontiers in cellular and infection microbiology
Issue numberFEB
StatePublished - Feb 15 2016


  • Agent based model
  • Dormancy
  • Granuloma
  • Host-pathogen interactions
  • Lung diseases
  • Multiscale modeling
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • Systems biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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