Proinflammatory caspase-2-mediated macrophage cell death induced by a rough attenuated Brucella suis strain

Infect Immun. 2011 Jun;79(6):2460-9. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00050-11. Epub 2011 Apr 4.


Brucella spp. are intracellular bacteria that cause an infectious disease called brucellosis in humans and many domestic and wildlife animals. B. suis primarily infects pigs and is pathogenic to humans. The macrophage-Brucella interaction is critical for the establishment of a chronic Brucella infection. Our studies showed that smooth virulent B. suis strain 1330 (S1330) prevented programmed cell death of infected macrophages and rough attenuated B. suis strain VTRS1 (a vaccine candidate) induced strong macrophage cell death. To further investigate the mechanism of VTRS1-induced macrophage cell death, microarrays were used to analyze temporal transcriptional responses of murine macrophage-like J774.A1 cells infected with S1330 or VTRS1. In total 17,685 probe sets were significantly regulated based on the effects of strain, time and their interactions. A miniTUBA dynamic Bayesian network analysis predicted that VTRS1-induced macrophage cell death was mediated by a proinflammatory gene (the tumor necrosis factor alpha [TNF-α] gene), an NF-κB pathway gene (the IκB-α gene), the caspase-2 gene, and several other genes. VTRS1 induced significantly higher levels of transcription of 40 proinflammatory genes than S1330. A Mann-Whitney U test confirmed the proinflammatory response in VTRS1-infected macrophages. Increased production of TNF-α and interleukin 1β (IL-1β) were also detected in the supernatants in VTRS1-infected macrophage cell culture. Hyperphosphorylation of IκB-α was observed in macrophages infected with VTRS1 but not S1330. The important roles of TNF-α and IκB-α in VTRS1-induced macrophage cell death were further confirmed by individual inhibition studies. VTRS1-induced macrophage cell death was significantly inhibited by a caspase-2 inhibitor but not a caspase-1 inhibitor. The role of caspase-2 in regulating the programmed cell death of VTRS1-infected macrophages was confirmed in another study using caspase-2-knockout mice. In summary, VTRS1 induces a proinflammatory, caspase-2- and NF-κB-mediated macrophage cell death. This unique cell death differs from apoptosis, which is not proinflammatory. It is also different from classical pyroptosis, which is caspase-1 mediated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brucella suis / immunology
  • Brucella suis / physiology*
  • Brucellosis / immunology
  • Brucellosis / microbiology*
  • Caspase 2 / physiology*
  • Cell Death
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial / physiology
  • Interleukin-1beta / physiology
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / microbiology*
  • Mice
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Phosphorylation
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / physiology


  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Caspase 2