Salmonella induces macrophage death by caspase-1-dependent necrosis

Mol Microbiol. 2000 Oct;38(1):31-40. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.2000.02103.x.


We provide evidence that Salmonella typhimurium kills phagocytes by an unusual proinflammatory mechanism of necrosis that is distinguishable from apoptosis. Infection stimulated a distinctly diffuse pattern of DNA fragmentation in macrophages, which contrasted with the marked nuclear condensation displayed by control cells undergoing chemically induced apoptosis. In apoptotic cells, DNA fragmentation and nuclear condensation result from caspase-3-mediated proteolysis; caspases also subvert necrotic cell death by cleaving and inactivating poly ADP-ribose polymerase (PARP). Caspase-3 was not activated during Salmonella infection, and PARP remained in its active, uncleaved state. Another hallmark of apoptosis is sustained membrane integrity during cell death; yet, infected macrophages rapidly lost membrane integrity, as indicated by simultaneous exposure of phosphatidylserine with the uptake of vital dye and the release of the cytoplasmic enzyme lactate dehydrogenase. During experimentally induced necrosis, lethal ion fluxes through the plasma membrane can be prevented by exogenous glycine; similarly, glycine completely blocked Salmonella-induced cytotoxicity. Finally, inhibition of the interleukin (IL)-1-converting enzyme caspase-1 blocked the death of infected macrophages, but not control cells induced to undergo apoptosis or necrosis. Thus, Salmonella-infected macrophages are killed by an unusual caspase-1-dependent mechanism of necrosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Caspase 1 / physiology*
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • In Situ Nick-End Labeling
  • Ion Transport
  • Macrophages / microbiology*
  • Necrosis
  • Salmonella typhimurium / physiology*


  • Caspase 1