In view of emerging drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB), host-directed adjunct therapies are urgently needed to improve treatment outcomes with currently available anti-TB therapies. One approach is to interfere with the formation of lipid-laden “foamy” macrophages in the host, as they provide a nutrient-rich host cell environment for Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb). Here, we provide evidence that Wnt family member 6 (WNT6), a ligand of the evolutionarily conserved Wingless/Integrase 1 (WNT) signaling pathway, promotes foam cell formation by regulating key lipid metabolic genes including acetyl-CoA carboxylase 2 (ACC2) during pulmonary TB. Using genetic and pharmacological approaches, we demonstrated that lack of functional WNT6 or ACC2 significantly reduced intracellular triacylglycerol (TAG) levels and Mtb survival in macrophages. Moreover, treatment of Mtb-infected mice with a combination of a pharmacological ACC2 inhibitor and the anti-TB drug isoniazid (INH) reduced lung TAG and cytokine levels, as well as lung weights, compared with treatment with INH alone. This combination also reduced Mtb bacterial numbers and the size of mononuclear cell infiltrates in livers of infected mice. In summary, our findings demonstrate that Mtb exploits WNT6/ACC2-induced storage of TAGs in macrophages to facilitate its intracellular survival, a finding that opens new perspectives for host-directed adjunctive treatment of pulmonary TB.
Julius Brandenburg, Sebastian Marwitz, Simone C. Tazoll, Franziska Waldow, Barbara Kalsdorf, Tim Vierbuchen, Thomas Scholzen, Annette Gross, Svenja Goldenbaum, Alexandra Hölscher, Martina Hein, Lara Linnemann, Maja Reimann, Andreas Kispert, Michael Leitges, Jan Rupp, Christoph Lange, Stefan Niemann, Jochen Behrends, Torsten Goldmann, Holger Heine, Ulrich E. Schaible, Christoph Hölscher, Dominik Schwudke, Norbert Reiling