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Microbes Infect. 2006 Apr;8(4):1035-44. Epub 2006 Jan 17.

The role of histamine in the intracellular survival of Mycobacterium bovis BCG.

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Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunobiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Szeged, Dóm tér 10, H-6720 Szeged, Hungary.


The course and outcome of infection with mycobacteria are determined by a complex interplay between the immune system of the host and the survival mechanisms developed by the bacilli. Histamine plays an important role in various processes, including cell division, metabolism, and apoptosis, and it modulates innate and adaptive immune responses. In the present study we investigated the intracellular survival of Mycobacterium bovis BCG in murine bone-marrow macrophages isolated from wild-type (WT) and histidine-decarboxylase knock-out [HDC (-/-)] mice. Mycobacterial titers were significantly higher in the HDC (-/-) macrophages as compared with the WT cells. M. bovis BCG growth in WT macrophages could be enhanced by pyrilamine and cimetidine. Exogenously added histamine decreased the intracellular counts of M. bovis BCG in HDC (-/-) macrophages. Infection of activated macrophages with M. bovis BCG elicited apoptosis, but there was no significant difference between the WT and the HDC (-/-) cells. These bacilli induced comparable levels of tumor necrosis factor-alpha production in the WT and the HDC (-/-) macrophages. M. bovis BCG stimulated interleukin-18 (IL-18) production in the macrophages from WT mice, but not in the HDC (-/-) cells. Exogenously added IL-18 decreased the titers of intracellular mycobacteria in HDC (-/-) cells. In conclusion, these data implicate histamine in the intracellular survival of M. bovis BCG. The cellular control mechanisms restricting the growth of M. bovis BCG are complex and involve H1 and H2 receptor-mediated events. Histamine might be an important mediator of M. bovis BCG-induced IL-18 production, which in turn contributes to immune protection.

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