Bacterial Ligands Generated in a Phagosome Are Targets of the Cytosolic Innate Immune System

PLoS Pathog. 2007 Mar;3(3):e51. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.0030051.


Macrophages are permissive hosts to intracellular pathogens, but upon activation become microbiocidal effectors of innate and cell-mediated immunity. How the fate of internalized microorganisms is monitored by macrophages, and how that information is integrated to stimulate specific immune responses is not understood. Activation of macrophages with interferon (IFN)-gamma leads to rapid killing and degradation of Listeria monocytogenes in a phagosome, thus preventing escape of bacteria to the cytosol. Here, we show that activated macrophages induce a specific gene expression program to L. monocytogenes degraded in the phago-lysosome. In addition to activation of Toll-like receptor (TLR) signaling pathways, degraded bacteria also activated a TLR-independent transcriptional response that was similar to the response induced by cytosolic L. monocytogenes. More specifically, degraded bacteria induced a TLR-independent IFN-beta response that was previously shown to be specific to cytosolic bacteria and not to intact bacteria localized to the phagosome. This response required the generation of bacterial ligands in the phago-lysosome and was largely dependent on nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain 2 (NOD2), a cytosolic receptor known to respond to bacterial peptidoglycan fragments. The NOD2-dependent response to degraded bacteria required the phagosomal membrane potential and the activity of lysosomal proteases. The NOD2-dependent IFN-beta production resulted from synergism with other cytosolic microbial sensors. This study supports the hypothesis that in activated macrophages, cytosolic innate immune receptors are activated by bacterial ligands generated in the phagosome and transported to the cytosol.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytosol / immunology*
  • Cytosol / metabolism
  • Cytosol / microbiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology*
  • Interferon-beta / genetics
  • Interferon-beta / metabolism
  • Ligands
  • Listeria monocytogenes / metabolism*
  • Listeria monocytogenes / pathogenicity
  • Listeriosis / physiopathology
  • Macrophage Activation / immunology*
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Macrophages / microbiology
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nod2 Signaling Adaptor Protein / genetics
  • Nod2 Signaling Adaptor Protein / physiology
  • Phagosomes / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Toll-Like Receptors / physiology


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Ligands
  • Nod2 Signaling Adaptor Protein
  • Nod2 protein, mouse
  • Toll-Like Receptors
  • Interferon-beta