Early interactions between fully virulent Bacillus anthracis and macrophages that influence the balance between spore clearance and development of a lethal infection

Microbes Infect. 2008 May;10(6):613-9. doi: 10.1016/j.micinf.2008.02.006. Epub 2008 Feb 21.


The role of macrophages in the pathogenesis of anthrax is unresolved. Macrophages are believed to support the initiation of infection by Bacillus anthracis spores, yet are also sporicidal. Furthermore, it is believed that the anthrax toxins suppress normal macrophage function. However, the significance of toxin effects on macrophages has not been addressed in an in vivo infection model. We used mutant derivatives of murine macrophage RAW264.7 cells that are toxin receptor-negative (R3D) to test the role of toxin-targeting of macrophages during a challenge with spores of the Ames strain of B. anthracis in both in vivo and in vitro models. We found that the R3D cells were able to control challenge with Ames when mice were inoculated with the cells prior to spore challenge. These findings were confirmed in vitro by high dose spore infection of macrophages. Interestingly, whereas the R3D cells provided a significantly greater survival advantage against spores than did the wild type RAW264.7 cells or R3D-complemented cells, the protection afforded the mutant and wild type cells was equivalent against a bacillus challenge. The findings appear to be the first specific test of the role of toxin targeting of macrophages during infection with B. anthracis spores.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthrax / immunology
  • Anthrax / mortality
  • Anthrax / pathology*
  • Antigens, Bacterial / immunology
  • Antigens, Bacterial / toxicity*
  • Bacillus anthracis / pathogenicity*
  • Bacillus anthracis / physiology
  • Bacterial Toxins / immunology
  • Bacterial Toxins / toxicity*
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Macrophages / drug effects*
  • Macrophages / microbiology*
  • Macrophages / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / genetics
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism
  • Receptors, Peptide / metabolism*
  • Spores, Bacterial / drug effects*


  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Receptors, Peptide
  • anthrax toxin
  • anthrax toxin receptors