Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the causative agent of tuberculosis (TB), has infected over 1.7 billion people worldwide and causes 1.4 million deaths annually. Recently, genome sequence analysis has allowed the reconstruction of Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTBC) evolution, with the identification of seven phylogeographic lineages: four referred to as evolutionarily "ancient", and three "modern". The MTBC strains belonging to "modern" lineages appear to show enhanced virulence that may have warranted improved transmission in humans over ancient lineages through molecular mechanisms that remain to be fully characterized. To evaluate the impact of MTBC genetic diversity on the innate immune response, we analyzed intracellular bacterial replication, inflammatory cytokine levels, and autophagy response in human primary macrophages infected with MTBC clinical isolates belonging to the ancient lineages 1 and 5, and the modern lineage 4. We show that, when compared to ancient lineage 1 and 5, MTBC strains belonging to modern lineage 4 show a higher rate of replication, associated to a significant production of proinflammatory cytokines (IL-1β, IL-6, and TNF-α) and induction of a functional autophagy process. Interestingly, we found that the increased autophagic flux observed in macrophages infected with modern MTBC is due to an autocrine activity of the proinflammatory cytokine IL-1β, since autophagosome maturation is blocked by an interleukin-1 receptor antagonist. Unexpectedly, IL-1β-induced autophagy is not disadvantageous for the survival of modern Mtb strains, which reside within Rab5-positive phagosomal vesicles and avoid autophagosome engulfment. Altogether, these results suggest that autophagy triggered by inflammatory cytokines is compatible with a high rate of intracellular bacilli replication and may therefore contribute to the increased pathogenicity of the modern MTBC lineages.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Cell Biology
- Cancer Research