The capacity of infected cells to undergo apoptosis upon insult with a pathogen is an ancient innate immune defense mechanism. Consequently, the ability of persisting, intracellular pathogens such as the human pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) to inhibit infection-induced apoptosis of macrophages is important for virulence. 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, but the molecular mechanism of this host pathogen interaction remains elusive. Here we show that the apoptogenic phenotype of MtbDeltanuoG was significantly reduced in human macrophages treated with caspase-3 and -8 inhibitors, TNF-alpha-neutralizing antibodies, and also after infection of murine TNF(-/-) macrophages. Interestingly, incubation of macrophages with inhibitors of reactive oxygen species (ROS) reduced not only the apoptosis induced by the nuoG mutant, but also its capacity to increase macrophage TNF-alpha secretion. The MtbDeltanuoG phagosomes showed increased ROS levels compared to Mtb phagosomes in primary murine and human alveolar macrophages. The increase in MtbDeltanuoG induced ROS and apoptosis was abolished in NOX-2 deficient (gp91(-/-)) macrophages. These results suggest that Mtb, via a NuoG-dependent mechanism, can neutralize NOX2-derived ROS in order to inhibit TNF-alpha-mediated host cell apoptosis. Consistently, an Mtb mutant deficient in secreted catalase induced increases in phagosomal ROS and host cell apoptosis, both of which were dependent upon macrophage NOX-2 activity. In conclusion, these results serendipitously reveal a novel connection between NOX2 activity, phagosomal ROS, and TNF-alpha signaling during infection-induced apoptosis in macrophages. Furthermore, our study reveals a novel function of NOX2 activity in innate immunity beyond the initial respiratory burst, which is the sensing of persistent intracellular pathogens and subsequent induction of host cell apoptosis as a second line of defense.
Miller, J.L.; Velmurugan, K.; Cowan, M.J.; Briken, V. The Type I NADH Dehydrogenase of Mycobacterium tuberculosis Counters Phagosomal NOX2 Activity to Inhibit TNF-&#945;-Mediated Host Cell Apoptosis. PLoS Pathogens (2010) 6 (4) e1000864. [DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1000864]