Apoptosis is central to the interaction between pathogenic mycobacteria and host macrophages. Caspase-8-dependent apoptosis of infected macrophages, which requires activation of the mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase p38, lowers the spread of mycobacteria. Here we establish a link between the release of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and mycobacteria-mediated macrophage apoptosis. TNF activated a pathway involving the kinases ASK1, p38 and c-Abl. This pathway led to phosphorylation of FLIPS, which facilitated its interaction with the E3 ubiquitin ligase c-Cbl. This interaction triggered proteasomal degradation of FLIPS, which promoted activation of caspase-8 and apoptosis. Our findings identify a previously unappreciated signaling pathway needed for Mycobacterium tuberculosis-triggered macrophage cell death.
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