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J Leukoc Biol. 2001 Oct;70(4):642-8.

Involvement of p38-mitogen-activated protein kinase in Staphylococcus aureus-induced neutrophil apoptosis.

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Division of Pathology II, Linköping University, Faculty of Health Sciences, Linköping, Sweden.


Apoptosis occurred in human neutrophils within an hour of exposure to viable serum-opsonized Staphylococcus aureus, as indicated by appearance of cells with condensed nuclei, fragmented DNA, and increased phosphatidylserine exposure. In contrast, serum-opsonized, heat-killed S. aureus did not induce apoptosis. This discrepancy could not be explained by differences in bacterial uptake or total NADPH-oxidase activity. Suppressing phagocytosis by pretreating the neutrophils with cytochalasin b or by using nonopsonized bacteria did not prevent apoptosis. A supernatant from bacteria grown for 2 h in nutrient broth had a strong proapoptotic influence that was abrogated by heat treatment. Exposure to viable S. aureus or supernatant also led to activation of p38-mitogen-activated protein kinase in the neutrophils. Inhibition of this kinase with SB203580 reduced the apoptosis-inducing capacity of both bacteria and supernatant. We conclude that S. aureus activates p38-mitogen-activated protein kinase in neutrophils and induces apoptosis, probably mediated by a bacteria-derived soluble factor(s).

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