Scientific reports

Early Secreted Antigenic Target of 6-kDa of Mycobacterium tuberculosis Stimulates IL-6 Production by Macrophages through Activation of STAT3.

PMID 28106119


As early secreted antigenic target of 6 kDa (ESAT-6) of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) is an essential virulence factor and macrophages are critical for tuberculosis infection and immunity, we studied ESAT-6 stimulated IL-6 production by macrophages. ESAT-6 stimulated significantly higher IL-6 secretion by murine bone marrow derived macrophages (BMDM) compared to culture filtrate protein 10 kDa (CFP10) and antigen 85A. Polymyxin B, an LPS blocker, did not affect ESAT-6 stimulated macrophage IL-6 production. ESAT-6 but not Pam3CSK4 induced IL-6 by TLR2 knockout BMDM. ESAT-6 induced phosphorylation and DNA binding of STAT3 and this was blocked by STAT3 inhibitors but not by rapamycin. STAT3 inhibitors suppressed ESAT-6-induced IL-6 transcription and secretion without affecting cell viability. This was confirmed by silencing STAT3 in macrophages. Blocking neither IL-6Rα/IL-6 nor IL-10 affected ESAT-6-induced STAT3 activation and IL-6 production. Infection of BMDM and human macrophages with Mtb with esat-6 deletion induced diminished STAT3 activation and reduced IL-6 production compared to wild type and esat-6 complemented Mtb strains. Administration of ESAT-6 but not CFP10 induced STAT3 phosphorylation and IL-6 expression in the mouse lungs, consistent with expression of ESAT-6, IL-6 and phosphorylated-STAT3 in Mtb-infected mouse lungs. We conclude that ESAT-6 stimulates macrophage IL-6 production through STAT3 activation.