We used a mouse model to study how Mycobacterium tuberculosis subverts host defenses to persist in macrophages despite immune pressure. CD4 T cells can recognize macrophages infected with a single bacillus in vitro. Under identical conditions, CD8 T cells inefficiently recognize infected macrophages and fail to restrict M. tuberculosis growth, although they can inhibit M. tuberculosis growth during high-burden intracellular infection. We show that high intracellular M. tuberculosis numbers cause macrophage death, leading other macrophages to scavenge cellular debris and cross-present the TB10.4 Ag to CD8 T cells. Presentation by infected macrophages requires M. tuberculosis to have a functional ESX-1 type VII secretion system. These data indicate that phagosomal membrane damage and cell death promote MHC class I presentation of the immunodominant Ag TB10.4 by macrophages. Although this mode of Ag presentation stimulates cytokine production that we presume would be host beneficial, killing of uninfected cells could worsen immunopathology. We suggest that shifting the focus of CD8 T cell recognition to uninfected macrophages would limit the interaction of CD8 T cells with infected macrophages and impair CD8 T cell–mediated resolution of tuberculosis.

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