Molecular Mechanisms of the Inhibition of Apoptosis by Mycobacterium tuberculosis

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The capacity of infected cells to undergo apoptosis upon insult with a pathogen is an ancient innate immune defense mechanism. Consequently, the ability of persistent intracellular pathogens, such as the human pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), to inhibit infection-induced apoptosis of macrophages is important for virulence and to achieve persistence in the host. The nuoG gene of Mtb, which encodes the NuoG subunit of the type I NADH dehydrogenase NDH-1, is important in Mtb-mediated inhibition of host macrophage apoptosis. Here I determine the molecular mechanisms of this host-pathogen interaction. Apoptosis induced by the nuoG deletion mutant (nuoG ) is caspase-8 and TNF-α dependent. This cell death was also reduced in the presence of neutralizers and inhibitors of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and in macrophages derived from NOX2 deficient mice, suggesting that DnuoG induced death is dependent upon NOX2 derived ROS. Correlatively, nuoG infected macrophages also produced more phagosomal ROS than those infected with Mtb, or cells derived from NOX2 deficient mice. NuoG also inhibited apoptosis in human alveolar macrophages in a NOX2 dependant manner. These data suggest that reduction of phagosomal ROS is important for inhibition of apoptosis. Consistent with this hypothesis, Mtb deficient in the ROS neutralizing catalase, KatG, also accumulated ROS in the phagosome and was pro-apoptotic in macrophages. The specific mechanism by which NuoG reduces phagosomal ROS is still unknown. We could not detect secretion of NuoG, so direct neutralization of ROS is unlikely. Interestingly, preliminary data suggests that  nuoG may be defective in secretion of SodA and KatG, enzymes known to be important for neutralizing ROS. In conclusion, these studies revealed that Mtb inhibits macrophage apoptosis by neutralizing phagosomal ROS via the NuoG dependent secretion of SodA and KatG. Furthermore, this research suggests a novel function for NOX2 activity in innate immunity, which is the sensing of persisting intracellular pathogens and subsequent induction of host cell apoptosis as a second line of defense for pathogens resistant to the respiratory burst.