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J Pathol. 1997 Jan;181(1):31-8.

Apoptosis of human monocytes/macrophages in Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection.

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Department of Biology University of Rome Tor Vergata, Italy.


Tuberculosis (TB) is still a major health problem, both as a single disease entity and as a cofactor in AIDS. The interaction between macrophage and Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) is a critical step in the establishment of an early chronic infection. This study analyses the capacity of MTB to induce apoptosis in cells obtained by broncho-alveolar lavage (BAL) from patients with reactive pulmonary tuberculosis and from AIDS patients with disseminated pulmonary tuberculosis. Apoptosis was increased three-fold in BAL cells obtained from patients with pulmonary tuberculosis and even more markedly in alveolar macrophages of MTB-infected AIDS patients, compared with controls. Apoptosis was analysed and characterized by propidium iodide (PI) incorporation, terminal deoxy transferase (TDT)-mediated dUTP-biotin nick end labelling (TUNEL), and tissue transglutaminase (tTG) expression. The MTB-macrophage interaction was also investigated in vitro by infecting monocyte-derived macrophages (MDM) with MTB (virulent strain H37Rv). The induction of apoptosis by MTB required viable bacteria, was dose-dependent, and was restricted to H37Rv. Infection with either Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) or HIV-1 and treatment with heat-killed MTB failed to induce apoptosis.

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