Apoptosis, or programmed cell death (PCD), is an important physiological mechanism, through which the human immune system regulates homeostasis and responds to diverse forms of cellular damage. PCD may also be involved in immune counteraction to microbial infection. Over the past decade, the amount of research on bacteriainduced PCD has grown tremendously, and the implications of this mechanism on immunity are being elucidated. Some pathogenic bacteria actively trigger the suicide response in critical lineages of leukocytes that orchestrate both the innate and adaptive immune responses; other bacteria proactively prevent PCD to benefit their own survival and persistence. Currently, the microbial virulence factors, which represent the keys to unlocking the suicide response in host cells, are a primary focus of this field. In this review, we discuss these bacterial "apoptosis regulatory molecules" and the apoptotic events they either trigger or prevent, the host target cells of this regulatory activity, and the possible ramifications for immunity to infection. Gram-positive pathogens including Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Bacillus, Listeria, and Clostridia species are discussed as important agents of human infection that modulate PCD pathways in eukaryotic cells.
Bacteria, apoptosis, programmed cell death, pathogenesis, immunity
Department of InfectiousDiseases, Mail Stop 320, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, 332 N.Lauderdale St., Memphis, TN 38105-2794, USA.