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J Exp Med. 2006 Sep 4;203(9):2177-89. Epub 2006 Aug 28.

NF-kappaB translocation prevents host cell death after low-dose challenge by Legionella pneumophila.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA 02111, USA.


Legionella pneumophila, the causative agent of Legionnaires' disease, grows within macrophages and manipulates target cell signaling. Formation of a Legionella-containing replication vacuole requires the function of the bacterial type IV secretion system (Dot/Icm), which transfers protein substrates into the host cell cytoplasm. A global microarray analysis was used to examine the response of human macrophage-like U937 cells to low-dose infections with L. pneumophila. The most striking change in expression was the Dot/Icm-dependent up-regulation of antiapoptotic genes positively controlled by the transcriptional regulator nuclear factor kappaB (NF-kappaB). Consistent with this finding, L. pneumophila triggered nuclear localization of NF-kappaB in human and mouse macrophages in a Dot/Icm-dependent manner. The mechanism of activation at low-dose infections involved a signaling pathway that occurred independently of the Toll-like receptor adaptor MyD88 and the cytoplasmic sensor Nod1. In contrast, high multiplicity of infection conditions caused a host cell response that masked the unique Dot/Icm-dependent activation of NF-kappaB. Inhibition of NF-kappaB translocation into the nucleus resulted in premature host cell death and termination of bacterial replication. In the absence of one antiapoptotic protein, plasminogen activator inhibitor-2, host cell death increased in response to L. pneumophila infection, indicating that induction of antiapoptotic genes is critical for host cell survival.

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