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Volume 49, Number 6, December 2016

Mycobacterium tuberculosis EspB protein suppresses interferon-γ-induced autophagy in murine macrophages 

DanDan Huang, Lang Bao


Corresponding author:

Lang Bao 


Background and purpose: 

Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) persists within immature phagosomes by preventing their maturation into phagolysosomes. Although the early secretory antigenic target 6 (ESAT-6) system 1 (ESX-1) secretion-associated protein B (EspB) of Mtb is strongly linked to immunogenicity and virulence of this organism, its mechanism of action remains largely unclear. This study aimed to investigate EspB effects on autophagy in murine ANA-1 macrophage cells. 



EspB gene was amplified by polymerase chain reaction from Mtb H37Rv genomic DNA to express recombinant EspB protein. Levels of autophagic markers, including Microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 beta (LC3B-I and -II), phosphorylated signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT)1 and total STAT1 in ANA-1 cells treated with EspB proteins were assessed by Western blotting. In addition, autophagic vacuoles were detected by fluorescence microscopy. Finally, IFN-γR1 expression was evaluated by semiquantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction and flow cytometry. 



EspB gene was expressed in Escherichia coli cells to yield a soluble N-terminal glutatione S-transferase tag fusion protein used in subsequent experiments. Preincubation with EspB significantly suppressed autophagosome formation and LC3B expression induced by interferon (IFN)-γ stimulation, in a dose-dependent manner. These results were confirmed by the reduced incorporation of monodansylcadaverine, a marker for the acidic compartment of autolysosomes, after treatment with EspB. Interestingly, we found that IFN-γ receptor 1 mRNA and protein levels were decreased in EspB-stimulated ANA-1 cells in comparison with untreated cells. Finally, EspB protein also inhibited IFN-γ-activated STAT1 phosphorylation, thereby downmodulating macrophage responsiveness to IFN-γ. 



EspB inhibits autophagosome formation in murine macrophages, at least in part by downregulating IFN-γ receptor 1 expression. Overall, EspB should be considered a relevant factor in the pathogenesis of mycobacterial infections in humans.



Key words:

ANA-1 macrophages, autophagy, EspB, interferon-γ receptor 1, Mycobacterium tuberculosis