Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) is the causative agent of tuberculosis, a disease that for years was considered to belong of the past, but tuberculosis is back causing over 2 million deaths per year. The infection can be dormant for decades and an active immune response can prevent the infection from progressing into active disease. However, the HIV/AIDS epidemic has caused an alarming rise in tuberculosis cases.
The main infectious route for Mtb is through the airways into the lungs, where they encounter alveolar macrophages. Mtb are phagocytosed by these macrophages, but instead of being killing within the phagosome, Mtb modulates the cell to become a host in which the bacteria thrive. The lack of capacity to eradicate the infection stimulate cells of the immune system to gather around infected macrophages and form a granuloma that walls off the infection. Within this granuloma, Mtb can wait silently and later progress into active disease. However, only a fraction of exposed individuals develop disease, indicating that initial eradication of Mtb infections is possible. Such immediate response must be directed by the innate immunity comprised of phagocytes such as neutrophils (PMNs) and non-activated macrophages. Upon Mtb infection, macrophages become anergic and PMNs enter apoptosis. PMNs have a short lifespan and are cleared by neighbouring phagocytes, a mechanism described to resolve the inflammation and modulate tissue regeneration.
We found that Mtb-induced apoptosis in PMNs was not dependent on phagocytosis of the bacteria, indicating that Mtb have the capacity to induce apoptosis in multiple PMNs. Complement-mediated phagocytosis induce survival signals such as Akt in PMNs, but despite this, complement-opsonized Mtb was able to override the anti-apoptotic activation in the cells. Since phagocytes clear apoptotic cells, we investigated how clearance of Mtb-induced apoptotic PMNs affected macrophages. We found that Mtb-induced apoptotic PMNs inflicted pro-inflammatory activation of the macrophages that cleared them. In addition, this activation was mediated by Hsp72 released from the Mtb-induced apoptotic PMNs. Furthermore, apoptotic PMNs can work in synergy with phagocytosed Mtb to activate macrophages and enhance intracellular killing of Mtb.
Since dendritic cells are important for the regulation of immunity, we investigated whether Mtb-induced apoptotic PMNs affected the inflammatory response and maturation of dendritic cells. We found that Mtb-induced apoptotic PMNs trigger dendritic cells to enter a mature state able to activate naïve T-cell proliferation.
We propose that infected apoptotic PMNs is a potent activator of the inflammatory response during infections. Taken together, PMNs not only kill their share of pathogens but also modulate other immune cells, thereby forming a link between the early innate and the adaptive immune response during microbial challenge with Mtb.
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press , 2009. , 73 p.
2009-08-24, Berzeliussalen, Campus US, Linköpings universitet, Linköping, 09:00 (Swedish)