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Roles of autophagy in killing of mycobacterial pathogens by host macrophages - Effects of some medicinal plants.

Autophagy is a cellular stress-induced intracellular process, through which damaged cellular components are decomposed via lysosomal degradation. This process plays important roles in host innate immunity, particularly the elimination of intracellular pathogens inside host macrophages. A more detailed understanding of the roles of autophagic events in the effective manifestation of macrophagic antimycobacterial activity is needed. Furthermore, the effects of medicinal plants on macrophagic autophagy response to mycobacterial infection need to be clarified. We herein examined the significance of autophagic events in the manifestation of host immunity during mycobacterial infection, by performing a literature search using PubMed. Recent studies demonstrated that autophagy up-regulated macrophage functions related to the intracellular killing of mycobacteria, even when pathogens were residing within the cytoplasm of macrophages. The majority of medicinal plants potentiated macrophagic autophagy, thereby enhancing their antimycobacterial functions. In contrast, most medicinal plants down-regulate the development and activation of the Th17 cell population, which reduces macrophage antimycobacterial activity. These opposing effects of medicinal plants on macrophage autophagy (enhancement) and Th17 cell functions (inhibition) may provide a plausible explanation for the clinical observation of their modest efficacy in the treatment of mycobacterial infections.

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