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Differential Regulation of the Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases by Pathogenic and Nonpathogenic Mycobacteria

  • Shannon K. Roach
  • Jeffrey S. Schorey
American Society for Microbiology
Publication Date
Jun 01, 2002
  • Biology
  • Medicine


Mycobacteria are the etiologic agents of numerous diseases which account for significant morbidity and mortality in humans and other animal species. Many mycobacteria are intramacrophage pathogens and therefore the macrophage response to infection, which includes synthesis of cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and production of nitric oxide, has important consequences for host immunity. However, very little is known about the macrophage cell signaling pathways initiated upon infection or how pathogenic mycobacteria may modulate the macrophage responses. Using primary murine bone marrow macrophages, we established that p38 and extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1 and 2 of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways are activated upon infection with different species of mycobacteria. However, we observed decreased MAPK activity over time in macrophages infected with pathogenic Mycobacterium avium strains relative to infections with nonpathogenic mycobacteria. Furthermore, macrophages infected with M. avium produced lower levels of TNF-α, interleukin 1β, and inducible nitric oxide synthase 2 than macrophages infected with nonpathogenic species. Inhibitor studies indicate that the MAPKs are required for the Mycobacterium-mediated induction of these effector proteins. Our data indicate that MAPKs are activated in macrophages upon invasion by mycobacteria and that this activation is diminished in macrophages infected with pathogenic strains of M. avium, resulting in decreased production of important immune effector proteins. The decreased MAPK activation associated with M. avium infections suggests a novel point of immune intervention by this mycobacterial species.

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