Scaling of immune responses against intracellular bacterial infection

EMBO J. 2014 Oct 16;33(20):2283-94. doi: 10.15252/embj.201489055. Epub 2014 Sep 15.


Macrophages detect bacterial infection through pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) localized at the cell surface, in intracellular vesicles or in the cytosol. Discrimination of viable and virulent bacteria from non-virulent bacteria (dead or viable) is necessary to appropriately scale the anti-bacterial immune response. Such scaling of anti-bacterial immunity is necessary to control the infection, but also to avoid immunopathology or bacterial persistence. PRR-mediated detection of bacterial constituents in the cytosol rather than at the cell surface along with cytosolic recognition of secreted bacterial nucleic acids indicates viability and virulence of infecting bacteria. The effector responses triggered by activation of cytosolic PRRs, in particular the RIG-I-induced simultaneous rapid type I IFN induction and inflammasome activation, are crucial for timely control of bacterial infection by innate and adaptive immunity. The knowledge on the PRRs and the effector responses relevant for control of infection with intracellular bacteria will help to develop strategies to overcome chronic infection.

Keywords: RIG‐I inflammasome activation; cytosolic pattern recognition receptors; interferon; secreted bacterial nucleic acids.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity
  • Bacterial Infections / immunology*
  • Bacterial Infections / microbiology
  • Cytosol / immunology
  • Cytosol / microbiology*
  • DNA, Bacterial / immunology*
  • DNA, Bacterial / metabolism
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Interferon Type I / immunology
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Macrophages / microbiology
  • RNA, Bacterial / immunology*
  • RNA, Bacterial / metabolism
  • Receptors, Pattern Recognition / immunology*
  • Signal Transduction


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Interferon Type I
  • RNA, Bacterial
  • Receptors, Pattern Recognition