Research Article: PPARγ is critical for Mycobacterium tuberculosis induction of Mcl-1 and limitation of human macrophage apoptosis

Date Published: June 21, 2018

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Eusondia Arnett, Ashlee M. Weaver, Kiersten C. Woodyard, Maria J. Montoya, Michael Li, Ky V. Hoang, Andrew Hayhurst, Abul K. Azad, Larry S. Schlesinger, Thomas R. Hawn.


Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR)γ is a global transcriptional regulator associated with anti-inflammatory actions. It is highly expressed in alveolar macrophages (AMs), which are unable to clear the intracellular pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.tb). Although M.tb infection induces PPARγ in human macrophages, which contributes to M.tb growth, the mechanisms underlying this are largely unknown. We undertook NanoString gene expression analysis to identify novel PPARγ effectors that condition macrophages to be more susceptible to M.tb infection. This revealed several genes that are differentially regulated in response to PPARγ silencing during M.tb infection, including the Bcl-2 family members Bax (pro-apoptotic) and Mcl-1 (pro-survival). Apoptosis is an important defense mechanism that prevents the growth of intracellular microbes, including M.tb, but is limited by virulent M.tb. This suggested that M.tb differentially regulates Mcl-1 and Bax expression through PPARγ to limit apoptosis. In support of this, gene and protein expression analysis revealed that Mcl-1 expression is driven by PPARγ during M.tb infection in human macrophages. Further, 15-lipoxygenase (15-LOX) is critical for PPARγ activity and Mcl-1 expression. We also determined that PPARγ and 15-LOX regulate macrophage apoptosis during M.tb infection, and that pre-clinical therapeutics that inhibit Mcl-1 activity significantly limit M.tb intracellular growth in both human macrophages and an in vitro TB granuloma model. In conclusion, identification of the novel PPARγ effector Mcl-1 has determined PPARγ and 15-LOX are critical regulators of apoptosis during M.tb infection and new potential targets for host-directed therapy for M.tb.

Partial Text

Nuclear receptors are a large family of structurally conserved, ligand activated transcription factors, which have a range of functions related to development, homeostasis, metabolism and immunity. Nuclear receptors include receptors for fatty acids such as peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) [1]. PPARs regulate expression of genes involved in fatty acid metabolism and inflammation (pro- and anti-) and are implicated in diabetes, cancer, and infectious diseases, including tuberculosis (TB) [2–6]. Drugs targeting PPARs and other nuclear receptors account for 13% of drugs approved for sale in the US and generated $27 billion in sales in 2009 [7], highlighting their important impact on human health.

PPARγ is critical for M.tb intramacrophage growth [4,5], yet the mechanisms behind this are incompletely understood (rev in: [3]). PPARγ is important for lipid body formation, and limiting TNFα and IL-6, and increasing IL-8 and IL-10 secretion during BCG and/or M.tb infection [4,5,45]. However, it is unclear what other pathways are regulated by PPARγ during M.tb infection, and their role in regulating M.tb infection. Gene expression analysis (Fig 1) reveals several new and unexpected potential PPARγ effector proteins in regulating human macrophage responses during M.tb infection.