Viral subversion of immunogenic cell death

Cell Cycle. 2009 Mar 15;8(6):860-9. doi: 10.4161/cc.8.6.7939. Epub 2009 Mar 26.


While physiological cell death is non-immunogenic, pathogen induced cell death can be immunogenic and hence stimulate an immune response against antigens that derive from dying cells and are presented by dendritic cells (DCs). The obligate immunogenic "eat-me" signal generated by dying cells consists in the exposure of calreticulin (CRT) at the cell surface. This particular "eat-me" signal, which facilitates engulfment by DCs, can only be found on cells that succumb to immunogenic apoptosis, while it is not present on cells dying in an immunologically silent fashion. CRT normally resides in the lumen of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), yet can translocate to the plasma membrane surface through a complex pathway that involves elements of the ER stress response (e.g., the eIF2alpha-phosphorylating kinase PERK), the apoptotic machinery (e.g., caspase-8 and its substrate BAP31, Bax, Bak), the anterograde transport from the ER to the Golgi apparatus, and SNARE-dependent exocytosis. A large panoply of viruses encodes proteins that inhibit eIF2alpha kinases, catalyze the dephosphorylation of eIF2alpha, bind to caspase-8, Bap31, Bax or Bak, or perturb exocytosis. We therefore postulate that obligate intracellular pathogens have developed a variety of strategies to subvert CRT exposure, thereby avoiding immunogenic cell death.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / immunology*
  • Calreticulin / immunology*
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Viruses / genetics
  • Viruses / metabolism*


  • Calreticulin