Gene expression profiling of human alveolar macrophages infected by B. anthracis spores demonstrates TNF-alpha and NF-kappab are key components of the innate immune response to the pathogen.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


Bacillus anthracis, the etiologic agent of anthrax, has recently been used as an agent of bioterrorism. The innate immune system initially appears to contain the pathogen at the site of entry. Because the human alveolar macrophage (HAM) plays a key role in lung innate immune responses, studying the HAM response to B. anthracis is important in understanding the pathogenesis of the pulmonary form of this disease.


In this paper, the transcriptional profile of B. anthracis spore-treated HAM was compared with that of mock-infected cells, and differentially expressed genes were identified by Affymetrix microarray analysis. A portion of the results were verified by Luminex protein analysis.


The majority of genes modulated by spores were upregulated, and a lesser number were downregulated. The differentially expressed genes were subjected to Ingenuity Pathway analysis, the Database for Annotation, Visualization and Integrated Discovery (DAVID) analysis, the Promoter Analysis and Interaction Network Toolset (PAINT) and Oncomine analysis. Among the upregulated genes, we identified a group of chemokine ligand, apoptosis, and, interestingly, keratin filament genes. Central hubs regulating the activated genes were TNF-alpha, NF-kappaB and their ligands/receptors. In addition to TNF-alpha, a broad range of cytokines was induced, and this was confirmed at the level of translation by Luminex multiplex protein analysis. PAINT analysis revealed that many of the genes affected by spores contain the binding site for c-Rel, a member of the NF-kappaB family of transcription factors. Other transcription regulatory elements contained in many of the upregulated genes were c-Myb, CP2, Barbie Box, E2F and CRE-BP1. However, many of the genes are poorly annotated, indicating that they represent novel functions. Four of the genes most highly regulated by spores have only previously been associated with head and neck and lung carcinomas.


The results demonstrate not only that TNF-alpha and NF-kappab are key components of the innate immune response to the pathogen, but also that a large part of the mechanisms by which the alveolar macrophage responds to B. anthracis are still unknown as many of the genes involved are poorly annotated.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Dozmorov, M; Wu, W; Chakrabarty, K; Booth, JL; Hurst, RE; Coggeshall, KM; Metcalf, JP

Published Date

  • September 10, 2009

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 9 /

Start / End Page

  • 152 -

PubMed ID

  • 19744333

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC2752459

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1471-2334

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1471-2334

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1186/1471-2334-9-152


  • eng