Exogenous Gamma and Alpha/Beta Interferon Rescues Human Macrophages from Cell Death Induced by Bacillus anthracis

Jeffrey A. Gold, Yoshihiko Hoshino, Satomi Hoshino, Marcus B. Jones, Anna Nolan, Michael D. Weiden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


During the recent bioterrorism-related outbreaks, inhalational anthrax had a 45% mortality in spite of appropriate antimicrobial therapy, underscoring the need for better adjuvant therapies. The variable latency between exposure and development of disease suggests an important role for the host's innate immune response. Alveolar macrophages are likely the first immune cells exposed to inhalational anthrax, and the interferon (IFN) response of these cells comprises an important arm of the host innate immune response to intracellular infection with Bacillus anthracis. Furthermore, IFNs have been used as immunoadjuvants for treatment of another intracellular pathogen, Mycobacterium tuberculosis. We established a model of B. anthracis infection with the Sterne strain (34F2) which contains lethal toxin (LeTx). 34F2 was lethal to murine and human macrophages. Treatment with IFNs significantly improved cell viability and reduced the number of germinated intracellular spores. Infection with 34F2 failed to induce the latent transcription factors signal transducer and activators of transcription 1 (STAT1) and ISGF-3, which are central to the IFN response. Furthermore, 34F 2 reduced STAT1 activation in response to exogenous alpha/beta IFN, suggesting direct inhibition of IFN signaling. Even though 34F2 has LeTx, there was no mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase 3 cleavage and p38 was normally induced, suggesting that these early effects of B. anthracis infection in macrophages are independent of LeTx. These data suggest an important role for both IFNs in the control of B. anthracis and the potential benefit of using exogenous IFN as an immunoadjuvant therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1291-1297
Number of pages7
JournalInfection and Immunity
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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