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PLoS One. 2012;7(1):e28958. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0028958. Epub 2012 Jan 3.

The stress-response factor SigH modulates the interaction between Mycobacterium tuberculosis and host phagocytes.

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Divisions of Bacteriology and Parasitology, Tulane National Primate Research Center, Covington, Louisiana, United States of America.


The Mycobacterium tuberculosis stress response factor SigH plays a crucial role in modulating the pathogen's response to heat, oxidative-stress, envelope damage and hypoxia. We hypothesized that the lack of this key stress response factor would alter the interaction between the pathogen and its host cells. We compared the interaction of Mtb, Mtb:Δ-sigH and a strain where the mutation had been genetically complemented (Mtb: Δ-sigH:CO) with primary rhesus macaque bone marrow derived macrophages (Rh-BMDMs). The expression of numerous inducible and homeostatic (CCL) β-chemokines and several apoptotic markers was induced to higher levels in the cells infected with Mtb:Δ-sigH, relative to Mtb or the complemented strain. The differential expression of these genes manifested into functional differences in chemotaxis and apoptosis in cells infected with these two strains. The mutant strain also exhibited reduced late-stage survival in Rh-BMDMs. We hypothesize that the product of one or more SigH-dependent genes may modulate the innate interaction of Mtb with host cells, effectively reducing the chemokine-mediated recruitment of immune effector cells, apoptosis of infected monocytes and enhancing the long-term survival and replication of the pathogen in this milieu The significantly higher induction of Prostaglandin Synthetase 2 (PTGS2 or COX2) in Rh-BMDMs infected with Mtb relative to Mtb: Δ-sigH may explain reduced apoptosis in Mtb-infected cells, as PTGS2 is known to inhibit p53-dependent apoptosis.The SigH-regulon modulates the innate interaction of Mtb with host phagocytes, perhaps as part of a strategy to limit its clearance and prolong its survival. The SigH regulon appears to be required to modulate innate immune responses directed against Mtb.

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