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Sub-lethal apoptosis signalling

It is, surprisingly, possible that the apoptosis pathway can run at low power: it does not kill the cell but we can detect its activation. This was described as a cell biological principle in 2015. We believe that we have found a function for the process. In this situation, small amounts of mitochondrial proteins are released into the cytosol, the cell recognises the release and responds with some additional signalling activities. We think this plays a role during microbial infection. When we infect epithelial cells with viruses or bacteria, the cells make cytokines. If we block this type of sub-lethal mitochondrial signalling, then some cytokines are produced less, in some cases dramatically less. Some bacteria (like Chlamydia, to a degree also Salmonella) grow inside epithelial cells. During this process, mitochondrial sub-lethal apoptosis signalling is activated, and this activation contributes to the control of the bacteria: they can grow better if mitochondria are disabled (Brokatzky et al., 2019). We believe that is important in the initial recognition of an infection by the human organism and are in the process of studying the signals in this pathway of host defence.


Brokatzky, D., Dorflinger, B., Haimovici, A., Weber, A., Kirschnek, S., Vier, J., Metz, A., Henschel, J., Steinfeldt, T., Gentle, I.E., et al. (2019). A non-death function of the mitochondrial apoptosis apparatus in immunity. The EMBO journal 38, e102325.

d differentiation 19, 1328-1336.