- Mycobacterium avium subsp, hominissuis is an opportunistic intracellular pathogen associated with disease in patients either immunosuppression or chronic lung pathology. Once in the host, M. avium preferentially infects and replicates within the phagocytic cells. The host driven macrophage apoptosis appears to be an essential aspect of innate immunity during bacterial infection; however, the existing evidence suggests that M. avium has evolved adaptive approaches to trigger the phagocyte apoptosis, exit apoptotic cells or via ingestion of infected apoptotic bodies subsequently infect neighboring macrophages. By evaluating 4,000 transposon mutants of M. avium in THP-1 cells, we identified clones that can trigger a new form of early host cell apoptosis, which is only observed upon entry into the "secondary-infected" macrophages. Inactivation of MAVA5_06970 gene lead to significant attenuation in intracellular growth within macrophages and mice, and impaired M. avium to induce rapid apoptosis in the "secondary-infected" cells as measured by Annexin V-FITC detection assay. Complementation of MAVA5_06970 gene corrected the attenuation as well as apoptotic phenotypes. The MAVA5_06970 gene encodes for a secreted protein. Using the pull-down assay and then confirmed with the yeast two-hybrid screen, we found that MAVA5_06970 effector interacts with the Secreted Phosphoprotein 1, the cytokine also known as Osteopontin. This interaction enhances the THP-1 cell apoptosis and, consequently, restricts the production of interleukin-12 that likely may limit the activation of the type I immunity pathway in vivo. This work identified a key virulence effector of M. avium that contributes to the cell-to-cell spread of the pathogen.