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Keywords:

  • apoptosis;
  • macrophage;
  • Mycobacterium bovis ;
  • tumour necrosis factor receptor 1;
  • tumour necrosis factor receptor 2

Summary

Apoptosis of macrophages has been reported as an effective host strategy to control the growth of intracellular pathogens, including pathogenic mycobacteria. Tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) plays an important role in the modulation of apoptosis of infected macrophages. It exerts its biological activities via two distinct cell surface receptors, TNFR1 and TNFR2, whose extracellular domain can be released by proteolysis forming soluble TNF receptors (sTNFR1 and sTNFR2). The signalling through TNFR1 initiates the majority of the biological functions of TNF-α, leading to either cell death or survival whereas TNFR2 mediates primarily survival signals. Here, the expression of TNF-α receptors and the apoptosis of alveolar macrophages were investigated during the early phase of infection with attenuated and virulent mycobacteria in mice. A significant increase of apoptosis and high expression of TNFR1 were observed in alveolar macrophages at 3 and 7 days after infection with attenuated Mycobacterium bovis but only on day 7 in infection with the virulent M. bovis. Low surface expression of TNFR1 and increased levels of sTNFR1 on day 3 after infection by the virulent strain were associated with reduced rates of apoptotic macrophages. In addition, a significant reduction in apoptosis of alveolar macrophages was observed in TNFR1−/− mice at day 3 after bacillus Calmette–Guérin infection. These results suggest a potential role for TNFR1 in mycobacteria-induced alveolar macrophage apoptosis in vivo. In this scenario, shedding of TNFR1 seems to contribute to the modulation of macrophage apoptosis in a strain-dependent manner.