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Free Content Role of mycobacteria-induced monocyte/macrophage apoptosis in the pathogenesis of human tuberculosis [Review Article]

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Apoptosis is a physiological programmed cell death process whose dysregulation plays an important role in different human infectious diseases. An increasing number of intracellular pathogens are known to induce target cell apoptosis, while some other parasites inhibit it. Unlike necrosis, apoptosis is a silent immunological event occurring without inflammation. Infection-induced target cell apoptosis may be a successful strategy to eliminate pathogens and assure host survival. Conversely, apoptosis inhibition could represent an adaptive mechanism for pathogen survival, while it may be beneficial for the host to initiate an effective immune response.

The worldwide increase in tuberculosis has stimulated more research aimed at defining the interaction between Mycobacterium tuberculosis and the immune system. M. tuberculosis possesses sophisticated strategies to circumvent its fate within target monocytic cells. Apoptosis of alveolar macrophages and monocytes has been described as a consequence of M. tuberculosis infection. Moreover, the observation that mycobacterial lipoproteins activate macrophages through Toll-like receptor (TLR) 2 suggests that innate immune receptors contribute to defence against M. tuberculosis. There is evidence that TLR-induced apoptosis modulates inflammation and immune activation during M. tuberculosis infection. Finally, the role of apoptotic-infected cells as a source of microbial antigens for cross-priming of effector T-cells is also discussed.

Keywords: apoptosis; macrophages; monocytes; mycobacteria; tuberculosis

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: 1: Division of Respiratory Medicine, ‘FEDERICO II’ University, Naples, Italy 2: Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, II University, Naples, Italy 3: Department of Biology, University of ‘Tor Vergata’, Rome, Italy 4: Research Centre, S Pietro-Fatebenefratelli Hospital, Rome, Italy

Publication date: April 1, 2005

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  • The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease publishes articles on all aspects of lung health, including public health-related issues such as training programmes, cost-benefit analysis, legislation, epidemiology, intervention studies and health systems research. The IJTLD is dedicated to the continuing education of physicians and health personnel and the dissemination of information on tuberculosis and lung health world-wide.

    Certain IJTLD articles are selected for translation into French, Spanish, Chinese or Russian. They are available on the Union website

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