Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

The role of macrophage cell death in tuberculosis


Studies of host responses to infection have traditionally focused on the direct antimicrobial activity of effector molecules (antibodies, complement, defensins, reactive oxygen and nitrogen intermediates) and immunocytes (macrophages, lymphocytes, and neutrophils among others). The discovery of the systems for programmed cell death of eukaryotic cells has revealed a unique role for this process in the complex interplay between microorganisms and their cellular targets or responding immunocytes. In particular, cells of the monocyte/macrophage lineage have been demonstrated to undergo apoptosis following intracellular infection with certain pathogens that are otherwise capable of surviving within the hostile environment of the phagosome or which can escape the phagosome. Mycobacterium tuberculosis is a prototypical ‘intracellular parasite’ of macrophages, and the direct induction of macrophage apoptosis by this organism has recently been reported from several laboratories. This paper reviews the current understanding of the mechanism and regulation of macrophage apoptosis in response to M. tuberculosis and examines the role this process plays in protective immunity and microbial virulence.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Vittorio Colizzi.

Additional information

Edited by R.A. Knight

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Kornfeld, H., Mancino, G. & Colizzi, V. The role of macrophage cell death in tuberculosis. Cell Death Differ 6, 71–78 (1999).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • macrophage
  • apoptosis
  • tuberculosis
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Further reading


Quick links