Lithium inhibits growth of intracellular Mycobacterium kansasii through enhancement of Macrophage apoptosis

Hosung Sohn, Kwangwook Kim, Kil Soo Lee, Han Gyu Choi, Kang In Lee, A. Rum Shin, Jong Seok Kim, Sung Jae Shin, Chang Hwa Song, Jeong Kyu Park, Hwa Jung Kim

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7 Citations (Scopus)


Mycobacterium kansasii (Mk) is an emerging pathogen that causes a pulmonary disease similar to tuberculosis. Macrophage apoptosis contributes to innate host defense against mycobacterial infection. Recent studies have suggested that lithium significantly enhances the cytotoxic activity of death stimuli in many cell types. We examined the effect of lithium on the viability of host cells and intracellular Mk in infected macrophages. Lithium treatment resulted in a substantial reduction in the viability of intracellular Mk in macrophages. Macrophage cell death was significantly enhanced after adding lithium to Mk-infected cells but not after adding to uninfected macrophages. Lithium-enhanced cell death was due to an apoptotic response, as evidenced by augmented DNA fragmentation and caspase activation. Reactive oxygen species were essential for lithium-induced apoptosis. Intracellular scavenging by N-acetylcysteine abrogated the lithium-mediated decrease in intracellular Mk growth as well as apoptosis. These data suggest that lithium is associated with control of intracellular Mk growth through modulation of the apoptotic response in infected macrophages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-306
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Microbiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Apr

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NFN) grant funded by the Korea government (MSIP) (No. 2007-0054932).

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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