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Cell. 2012 Aug 17;150(4):803-15. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2012.06.040.

Extracellular M. tuberculosis DNA targets bacteria for autophagy by activating the host DNA-sensing pathway.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Program in Microbial Pathogenesis and Host Defense, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94158, USA.


Eukaryotic cells sterilize the cytosol by using autophagy to route invading bacterial pathogens to the lysosome. During macrophage infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a vacuolar pathogen, exogenous induction of autophagy can limit replication, but the mechanism of autophagy targeting and its role in natural infection remain unclear. Here we show that phagosomal permeabilization mediated by the bacterial ESX-1 secretion system allows cytosolic components of the ubiquitin-mediated autophagy pathway access to phagosomal M. tuberculosis. Recognition of extracelluar bacterial DNA by the STING-dependent cytosolic pathway is required for marking bacteria with ubiquitin, and delivery of bacilli to autophagosomes requires the ubiquitin-autophagy receptors p62 and NDP52 and the DNA-responsive kinase TBK1. Remarkably, mice with monocytes incapable of delivering bacilli to the autophagy pathway are extremely susceptible to infection. Our results reveal an unexpected link between DNA sensing, innate immunity, and autophagy and indicate a major role for this autophagy pathway in resistance to M. tuberculosis infection.

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