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J Biol Chem. 2005 Mar 18;280(11):10388-94. Epub 2005 Jan 4.

Yersinia phosphatase induces mitochondrially dependent apoptosis of T cells.

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Program of Inflammation, Infectious and Inflammatory Disease Center, Cancer Center, The Burnham Institute, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


To evade the immune system, the etiologic agent of plague, Yersinia pestis, injects an exceptionally active tyrosine phosphatase called YopH into host cells using a type III secretion system. We recently reported that YopH acutely inhibits T cell antigen receptor signaling by dephosphorylating the Lck tyrosine kinase. Here, we show that prolonged presence of YopH in primary T cells or Jurkat T leukemia cells causes apoptosis, detected by annexin V binding, mitochondrial breakdown, caspase activation, and internucleosomal fragmentation. YopH also causes cell death when expressed in HeLa cells, and this cell death was inhibited by YopH-specific small molecule inhibitors. Cell death induced by YopH was also prevented by caspase inhibition or co-expression of Bcl-xL. We conclude that YopH not only paralyzes T cells acutely, but also ensures that the cells will not recover to induce a protective immune response but instead undergo mitochondrially regulated programmed cell death.

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