TNF-alpha controls intracellular mycobacterial growth by both inducible nitric oxide synthase-dependent and inducible nitric oxide synthase-independent pathways

L G Bekker, S Freeman, P J Murray, B Ryffel, G Kaplan
Journal of Immunology 2001 June 1, 166 (11): 6728-34
The role of TNF-alpha in the control of mycobacterial growth in murine macrophages was studied in vitro. Infection of macrophages from TNF-alpha gene disrupted (TNF-knockout (KO)) mice with recombinant Mycobacterium bovis bacillus Calmette Guérin (BCG) expressing the vector only (BCG-vector) resulted in logarithmic growth of the intracellular bacilli. Infection with BCG-secreting murine TNF-alpha (BCG-TNF) led to bacillary killing. Killing of BCG-TNF was associated with rapid accumulation of inducible NO synthase (iNOS) protein and the production of nitrite. The uncontrolled growth of BCG-vector was associated with low iNOS expression but no nitrite production. Thus, iNOS expression appears to be TNF-alpha independent but iNOS generation of NO requires TNF-alpha. In cultures of TNF-KO macrophages infected with BCG-TNF, inhibition of iNOS by aminoguanidine (AMG) abolished the killing of the bacilli. However, the growth of the organisms was still inhibited, suggesting an iNOS-independent TNF-alpha-mediated growth inhibition. To confirm this, macrophages from iNOS-KO mice were infected with either BCG-vector or BCG-TNF. As expected, no nitrite was detected in the culture medium. TNF-alpha was detected only when the cells were infected with BCG-TNF. In the iNOS-KO macrophages, the growth of BCG was inhibited only in the BCG-TNF infection. These results suggest that in the absence of iNOS activity, TNF-alpha stimulates macrophages to control the growth of intracellular BCG. Thus, there appears to be both a TNF-alpha-dependent-iNOS-dependent killing pathway as well as a TNF-alpha-dependent-iNOS-independent growth inhibitory pathway for the control of intracellular mycobacteria in murine macrophages.

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