Francisella tularensis inhibits Toll-like receptor-mediated activation of intracellular signalling and secretion of TNF-alpha and IL-1 from murine macrophages

Cell Microbiol. 2003 Jan;5(1):41-51. doi: 10.1046/j.1462-5822.2003.00251.x.


Microbial ligands, including lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and bacterial lipoproteins, activate Toll-like receptors (TLR) of mononuclear phagocytes, thereby inducing proinflammatory cytokines and antimicrobial activity. We show that Francisella tularensis, an intracellular pathogen, is capable of inhibiting this macrophage response. Infection with the live vaccine strain F. tularensis LVS rendered cells of the murine macrophage-like cell line J774A.1 incapable of secreting TNF-alpha or IL-1beta and mobilizing an antimicrobial activity in response to bacterial lipopeptide or Escherichia coli-derived LPS. Inhibition of TNF-alpha secretion occurred also when J774 cells were infected with F. tularensis LVS in the presence of chloramphenicol, but not when they were infected with a mutant of F. tularensis LVS defective in expression of a 23 kDa protein that is upregulated during intracellular infection. Purified F. tularensis LPS did not show an agonistic or antagonistic effect on the E. coli LPS-induced activation of the J774 cells. Francisella tularensis LVS suppressed the capability of the cells to respond to LPS or bacterial lipopeptide (BLP) with activation of nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kappaB), and degradation of the in-hibitor of NF-kappaB, IkappaB, was blocked during the infection. Also the LPS- or BLP-induced phosphorylation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase p38 and the transcription factor c-Jun was inhibited by F. tularensis LVS but not by the 23 kDa protein mutant. In conclusion, F. tularensis appears capable of abrogating the TNF-alpha and IL-1 responses of macrophages induced by E. coli LPS or BLP via a mechanism that involves suppression of several intracellular pathways and is dependent on expression of a bacterial 23 kDa protein.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Line
  • Drosophila Proteins*
  • Francisella tularensis / growth & development
  • Francisella tularensis / metabolism
  • Francisella tularensis / pathogenicity*
  • Interleukin-1 / genetics
  • Interleukin-1 / metabolism*
  • Lipopolysaccharides / metabolism
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Macrophages / microbiology*
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Mice
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Toll-Like Receptors
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transcriptional Activation
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / genetics
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Interleukin-1
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • NF-kappa B
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Toll-Like Receptors
  • Transcription Factors
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha