Macrophage NFATC2 mediates angiogenic signaling during mycobacterial infection.

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During mycobacterial infections, pathogenic mycobacteria manipulate both host immune and stromal cells to establish and maintain a productive infection. In humans, non-human primates, and zebrafish models of infection, pathogenic mycobacteria produce and modify the specialized lipid trehalose 6,6'-dimycolate (TDM) in the bacterial cell envelope to drive host angiogenesis toward the site of forming granulomas, leading to enhanced bacterial growth. Here, we use the zebrafish-Mycobacterium marinum infection model to define the signaling basis of the host angiogenic response. Through intravital imaging and cell-restricted peptide-mediated inhibition, we identify macrophage-specific activation of NFAT signaling as essential to TDM-mediated angiogenesis in vivo. Exposure of cultured human cells to Mycobacterium tuberculosis results in robust induction of VEGFA, which is dependent on a signaling pathway downstream of host TDM detection and culminates in NFATC2 activation. As granuloma-associated angiogenesis is known to serve bacterial-beneficial roles, these findings identify potential host targets to improve tuberculosis disease outcomes.





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Brewer, W Jared, Ana María Xet-Mull, Anne Yu, Mollie I Sweeney, Eric M Walton and David M Tobin (2022). Macrophage NFATC2 mediates angiogenic signaling during mycobacterial infection. Cell reports, 41(11). p. 111817. 10.1016/j.celrep.2022.111817 Retrieved from

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David M. Tobin

Professor of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology

Tuberculosis: Mycobacterial Pathogenesis and Host Susceptibility

Tuberculosis kills 1.5 million people annually. Our laboratory aims to understand the intricate interplay between mycobacteria and their hosts using a combination of model organism genetics, human genetics, pharmacology and high-resolution microscopy. By identifying key pathways utilized by the infecting bacteria and the host innate immune system, we hope to discover new therapeutic targets and interventions to combat this enduringly destructive disease.

Using a Mycobacterium/zebrafish model, we have identified new host susceptibility loci for tuberculosis. Zebrafish are natural hosts to Mycobacterium marinum, the closest relative of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex. Because zebrafish embryos and larvae are optically transparent, we are able to visualize the complex details of mycobacterial pathogenesis in whole, live animals. The facile genetics of the zebrafish allow us to map and positionally clone affected host susceptibility genes. In addition, zebrafish larvae are remarkably permeable to small molecules, providing a platform for whole-animal pharmacological manipulation of specific host immune responses.

We have identified novel pathways that modulate susceptibility to tuberculosis. We have shown that genes identified in the zebrafish model are also important in human tuberculosis. We find robust associations of human variants in a specific eicosanoid pathway with susceptibility to both tuberculosis and leprosy.

We have active collaborations in both Vietnam and Guatemala. In Guatemala, we are working with the Clínica Familiar Luis Angel García and the Asociación de Salud Integral to support projects involving HIV-infected patients and to understand the dynamics of TB transmission in Central America.

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