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Cell Death Dis. 2017 Aug 24;8(8):e3012. doi: 10.1038/cddis.2017.420.

Mycobacterium abscessus glycopeptidolipids inhibit macrophage apoptosis and bacterial spreading by targeting mitochondrial cyclophilin D.

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Department of Microbiology and Department of Medical Science, College of Medicine, Chungnam National University, Daejeon, South Korea.
Department of Food and Nutrition, Tezukayama University, Gakuenminami, Nara, Japan.


Mycobacterium abscessus (MAB) is a species of nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) and a major causative pathogen of pulmonary diseases especially in patients with cystic fibrosis. MAB infection is notoriously difficult to treat because of its intrinsic or inducible resistance to most antibiotics. The rough (R) morphotype of MAB, lacking cell surface glycopeptidolipids (GPLs), is associated with more severe and persistent infection than the smooth (S) type; however, the mechanisms underlying the R type's virulence and the relation with GPLs remain unclear. In this study, we found that R-type MAB is much more proapoptotic than the S type, as a result of GPL-mediated inhibition of macrophage apoptosis. Polar GPLs inhibited an apoptotic response (induced by proapoptotic stimuli) by suppressing ROS production and the cytochrome c release and by preserving mitochondrial transmembrane potential. Furthermore, GPLs were found to be targeted to mitochondria and interacted with cyclophilin D; their acetylation was essential for this interaction. Finally, GPLs inhibited the intracellular growth and bacterial spreading of R-type MAB among macrophages via apoptosis inhibition. These findings suggest that GPLs limit MAB virulence by inhibiting apoptosis and the spread of bacteria and therefore provide a novel insight into the mechanism underlying virulence of MAB.

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