PloS one

Mycobacterium tuberculosis Rv3402c enhances mycobacterial survival within macrophages and modulates the host pro-inflammatory cytokines production via NF-kappa B/ERK/p38 signaling.

PMID 24722253


Intracellular survival plays a central role in the pathogenesis of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a process which depends on an array of virulence factors to colonize and replicate within the host. The M. tuberculosis iron regulated open reading frame (ORF) rv3402c, encoding a conserved hypothetical protein, was shown to be up-regulated upon infection in both human and mice macrophages. To explore the function of this ORF, we heterologously expressed the rv3402c gene in the non-pathogenic fast-growing Mycobacterium smegmatis strain, and demonstrated that Rv3402c, a cell envelope-associated protein, was able to enhance the intracellular survival of recombinant M. smegmatis. Enhanced growth was not found to be the result of an increased resistance to intracellular stresses, as growth of the Rv3402c expressing strain was unaffected by iron depletion, H2O2 exposure, or acidic conditions. Colonization of macrophages by M. smegmatis expressing Rv3402c was associated with substantial cell death and significantly greater amount of TNF-α and IL-1β compared with controls. Rv3402c-induced TNF-α and IL-1β production was found to be mediated by NF-κB, ERK and p38 pathway in macrophages. In summary, our study suggests that Rv3402c delivered in a live M. smegmatis vehicle can modify the cytokines profile of macrophage, promote host cell death and enhance the persistence of mycobacterium within host cells.