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1.  Cell biology at the host–microbe interface 
PMCID: PMC3952837  PMID: 24626843
2.  Identification of OmpA, a Coxiella burnetii Protein Involved in Host Cell Invasion, by Multi-Phenotypic High-Content Screening 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(3):e1004013.
Coxiella burnetii is the agent of the emerging zoonosis Q fever. This pathogen invades phagocytic and non-phagocytic cells and uses a Dot/Icm secretion system to co-opt the endocytic pathway for the biogenesis of an acidic parasitophorous vacuole where Coxiella replicates in large numbers. The study of the cell biology of Coxiella infections has been severely hampered by the obligate intracellular nature of this microbe, and Coxiella factors involved in host/pathogen interactions remain to date largely uncharacterized. Here we focus on the large-scale identification of Coxiella virulence determinants using transposon mutagenesis coupled to high-content multi-phenotypic screening. We have isolated over 3000 Coxiella mutants, 1082 of which have been sequenced, annotated and screened. We have identified bacterial factors that regulate key steps of Coxiella infections: 1) internalization within host cells, 2) vacuole biogenesis/intracellular replication, and 3) protection of infected cells from apoptosis. Among these, we have investigated the role of Dot/Icm core proteins, determined the role of candidate Coxiella Dot/Icm substrates previously identified in silico and identified additional factors that play a relevant role in Coxiella pathogenesis. Importantly, we have identified CBU_1260 (OmpA) as the first Coxiella invasin. Mutations in ompA strongly decreased Coxiella internalization and replication within host cells; OmpA-coated beads adhered to and were internalized by non-phagocytic cells and the ectopic expression of OmpA in E. coli triggered its internalization within cells. Importantly, Coxiella internalization was efficiently inhibited by pretreating host cells with purified OmpA or by incubating Coxiella with a specific anti-OmpA antibody prior to host cell infection, suggesting the presence of a cognate receptor at the surface of host cells. In summary, we have developed multi-phenotypic assays for the study of host/pathogen interactions. By applying our methods to Coxiella burnetii, we have identified the first Coxiella protein involved in host cell invasion.
Author Summary
Infectious diseases are among the major causes of mortality worldwide. Pathogens‚ invasion, colonization and persistence within their hosts depend on a tightly orchestrated cascade of events that are commonly referred to as host/pathogen interactions. These interactions are extremely diversified and every pathogen is characterized by its unique way of co-opting and manipulating host functions to its advantage. Understanding host/pathogen interactions is the key to face the threats imposed by infectious diseases and find alternative strategies to fight the emergence of multi-drug resistant pathogens. In this study, we have setup and validated a protocol for the rapid and unbiased identification of bacterial factors that regulate host/pathogen interactions. We have applied this method to the study of Coxiella burnetii, the etiological agent of the emerging zoonosis Q fever. We have isolated, sequenced and screened over 1000 bacterial mutations and identified genes important for Coxiella invasion and replication within host cells. Ultimately, we have characterized the first Coxiella invasin, which mediates bacterial internalization within non-phagocytic cells. Most importantly, our finding may lead to the development of a synthetic vaccine against Q fever.
PMCID: PMC3961360  PMID: 24651569
3.  The Chlamydia trachomatis Type III Secretion Chaperone Slc1 Engages Multiple Early Effectors, Including TepP, a Tyrosine-phosphorylated Protein Required for the Recruitment of CrkI-II to Nascent Inclusions and Innate Immune Signaling 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(2):e1003954.
Chlamydia trachomatis, the causative agent of trachoma and sexually transmitted infections, employs a type III secretion (T3S) system to deliver effector proteins into host epithelial cells to establish a replicative vacuole. Aside from the phosphoprotein TARP, a Chlamydia effector that promotes actin re-arrangements, very few factors mediating bacterial entry and early inclusion establishment have been characterized. Like many T3S effectors, TARP requires a chaperone (Slc1) for efficient translocation into host cells. In this study, we defined proteins that associate with Slc1 in invasive C. trachomatis elementary bodies (EB) by immunoprecipitation coupled with mass spectrometry. We identified Ct875, a new Slc1 client protein and T3S effector, which we renamed TepP (Translocated early phosphoprotein). We provide evidence that T3S effectors form large molecular weight complexes with Scl1 in vitro and that Slc1 enhances their T3S-dependent secretion in a heterologous Yersinia T3S system. We demonstrate that TepP is translocated early during bacterial entry into epithelial cells and is phosphorylated at tyrosine residues by host kinases. However, TepP phosphorylation occurs later than TARP, which together with the finding that Slc1 preferentially engages TARP in EBs leads us to postulate that these effectors are translocated into the host cell at different stages during C. trachomatis invasion. TepP co-immunoprecipitated with the scaffolding proteins CrkI-II during infection and Crk was recruited to EBs at entry sites where it remained associated with nascent inclusions. Importantly, C. trachomatis mutants lacking TepP failed to recruit CrkI-II to inclusions, providing genetic confirmation of a direct role for this effector in the recruitment of a host factor. Finally, endocervical epithelial cells infected with a tepP mutant showed altered expression of a subset of genes associated with innate immune responses. We propose a model wherein TepP acts downstream of TARP to recruit scaffolding proteins at entry sites to initiate and amplify signaling cascades important for the regulation of innate immune responses to Chlamydia.
Author Summary
Chlamydia trachomatis is an obligate intracellular bacterial pathogen that causes a range of human diseases of significant public health importance. To create a suitable replicative niche within its host, Chlamydia delivers effector proteins across mammalian membranes via a syringe-like apparatus termed a Type III secretion (T3S) system. The lack of a robust system for the molecular genetic manipulation of these pathogens has hindered progress in identifying and characterizing T3S effectors. In this study, we took a mass spectrometry-based approach to identify Chlamydia effector proteins based on their interaction with Slc1, an abundant T3S chaperone. We identified a previously uncharacterized protein, Ct875/TepP, as a new T3S effector and determined that TepP is phosphorylated upon translocation into host cells, leading to the recruitment of the host scaffolding protein Crk and presumably manipulating Crk-dependent signaling functions. Finally, we provide genetic confirmation of the role of TepP in recruiting Crk and in modulating the expression of genes involved in innate immune responses to Chlamydia. This study is the first example of genetic validation of the function of a T3S effector in Chlamydia and a new example of a bacterial effector that directly co-opts the oncoprotein Crk to modulate host cell signaling events.
PMCID: PMC3930595  PMID: 24586162
4.  SubtiWiki–a database for the model organism Bacillus subtilis that links pathway, interaction and expression information 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;42(D1):D692-D698.
Genome annotation and access to information from large-scale experimental approaches at the genome level are essential to improve our understanding of living cells and organisms. This is even more the case for model organisms that are the basis to study pathogens and technologically important species. We have generated SubtiWiki, a database for the Gram-positive model bacterium Bacillus subtilis ( In addition to the established companion modules of SubtiWiki, SubtiPathways and SubtInteract, we have now created SubtiExpress, a third module, to visualize genome scale transcription data that are of unprecedented quality and density. Today, SubtiWiki is one of the most complete collections of knowledge on a living organism in one single resource.
PMCID: PMC3965029  PMID: 24178028
5.  Salmonella Modulation of Host Cell Gene Expression Promotes Its Intracellular Growth 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(10):e1003668.
Salmonella Typhimurium has evolved a complex functional interface with its host cell largely determined by two type III secretion systems (T3SS), which through the delivery of bacterial effector proteins modulate a variety of cellular processes. We show here that Salmonella Typhimurium infection of epithelial cells results in a profound transcriptional reprogramming that changes over time. This response is triggered by Salmonella T3SS effector proteins, which stimulate unique signal transduction pathways leading to STAT3 activation. We found that the Salmonella-stimulated changes in host cell gene expression are required for the formation of its specialized vesicular compartment that is permissive for its intracellular replication. This study uncovers a cell-autonomous process required for Salmonella pathogenesis potentially opening up new avenues for the development of anti-infective strategies that target relevant host pathways.
Author Summary
Essential for the ability of Salmonella Typhimurium to cause disease is the function of a type III secretion system (T3SS) encoded within its pathogenicity island 1 (SPI-1), which through the delivery of bacterial effector proteins modulates a variety of cellular functions. This study reports that the infection of mammalian cells with Salmonella Typhimurium results in a profound reprogramming of gene expression that changes over time. The stimulation of this response requires the activity of a specific subset of bacterial T3SS effector proteins, which stimulate unique signal transduction pathways leading to STAT3 activation. We found that the Salmonella-stimulated changes in host cell gene expression are required for its intracellular replication. Targeting the mechanisms described in this study may lead to the development of novel anti-infective strategies.
PMCID: PMC3789771  PMID: 24098123
6.  Mutations in hemG Mediate Resistance to Salicylidene Acylhydrazides, Demonstrating a Novel Link between Protoporphyrinogen Oxidase (HemG) and Chlamydia trachomatis Infectivity 
Journal of Bacteriology  2013;195(18):4221-4230.
Salicylidene acylhydrazides (SAHs) inhibit the type III secretion system (T3S) of Yersinia and other Gram-negative bacteria. In addition, SAHs restrict the growth and development of Chlamydia species. However, since the inhibition of Chlamydia growth by SAH is suppressed by the addition of excess iron and since SAHs have an iron-chelating capacity, their role as specific T3S inhibitors is unclear. We investigated here whether SAHs exhibit a function on C. trachomatis that goes beyond iron chelation. We found that the iron-saturated SAH INP0341 (IS-INP0341) specifically affects C. trachomatis infectivity with reduced generation of infectious elementary body (EB) progeny. Selection and isolation of spontaneous SAH-resistant mutant strains revealed that mutations in hemG suppressed the reduced infectivity caused by IS-INP0341 treatment. Structural modeling of C. trachomatis HemG predicts that the acquired mutations are located in the active site of the enzyme, suggesting that IS-INP0341 inhibits this domain of HemG and that protoporphyrinogen oxidase (HemG) and heme metabolism are important for C. trachomatis infectivity.
PMCID: PMC3754756  PMID: 23852872
7.  The sst1 Resistance Locus Regulates Evasion of Type I Interferon Signaling by Chlamydia pneumoniae as a Disease Tolerance Mechanism 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(8):e1003569.
The sst1, “supersusceptibility to tuberculosis,” locus has previously been shown to be a genetic determinant of host resistance to infection with the intracellular pathogen, Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Chlamydia pneumoniae is an obligate intracellular bacterium associated with community acquired pneumonia, and chronic infection with C. pneumoniae has been linked to asthma and atherosclerosis. C. pneumoniae is a highly adapted pathogen that can productively infect macrophages and inhibit host cell apoptosis. Here we examined the role of sst1 in regulating the host response to infection with C. pneumoniae. Although mice carrying the sst1 susceptible (sst1S) locus were not impaired in their ability to clear the acute infection, they were dramatically less tolerant of the induced immune response, displaying higher clinical scores, more severe lung inflammation, exaggerated macrophage and neutrophil influx, and the development of fibrosis compared to wild type mice. This correlated with increased activated caspase-3 in the lungs of infected sst1S mice. Infection of sst1S macrophages with C. pneumoniae resulted in a shift in the secreted cytokine profile towards enhanced production of interferon-β and interleukin-10, and induced apoptotic cell death, which was dependent on secretion of interferon-β. Intriguingly macrophages from the sst1S mice failed to support normal chlamydial growth, resulting in arrested development and failure of the organism to complete its infectious cycle. We conclude that the sst1 locus regulates a shared macrophage-mediated innate defense mechanism against diverse intracellular bacterial pathogens. Its susceptibility allele leads to upregulation of type I interferon pathway, which, in the context of C. pneumoniae, results in decreased tolerance, but not resistance, to the infection. Further dissection of the relationship between type I interferons and host tolerance during infection with intracellular pathogens may provide identification of biomarkers and novel therapeutic targets.
Author Summary
Chlamydia pneumoniae is a highly adapted intracellular pathogen and a common cause of atypical, community acquired pneumonia. It has also been suggested as a trigger or promoter of asthma and atherosclerosis. In this study, we examined the role of a genetic locus on mouse chromosome 1 that has been associated with susceptibility to another intracellular pathogen, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, in the pathogenesis of respiratory infections secondary to Chlamydia pneumoniae. We have determined that a variant at this locus, known as sst1 and associated with destructive pulmonary tuberculosis, makes mice dramatically more sensitive in vivo to the inflammatory changes following respiratory infection with C. pneumoniae. This appears to arise from activation of type I interferons and apoptotic cell death, two signaling pathways that are normally silent during productive C. pneumoniae infection. Despite a noted inability of sst1 susceptible macrophages to support chlamydial development, exuberant lung tissue damage resulted in overall more severe disease in vivo. We conclude the sst1-mediated control of lung tissue damage is an important determinant of the genetic susceptibility of a given host to a number of diverse intracellular bacterial pathogens, which may provide predictors of outcomes to infectious diseases as well as possible target for novel therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC3757055  PMID: 24009502
8.  Brucella Modulates Secretory Trafficking via Multiple Type IV Secretion Effector Proteins 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(8):e1003556.
The intracellular pathogenic bacterium Brucella generates a replicative vacuole (rBCV) derived from the endoplasmic reticulum via subversion of the host cell secretory pathway. rBCV biogenesis requires the expression of the Type IV secretion system (T4SS) VirB, which is thought to translocate effector proteins that modulate membrane trafficking along the endocytic and secretory pathways. To date, only a few T4SS substrates have been identified, whose molecular functions remain unknown. Here, we used an in silico screen to identify putative T4SS effector candidate proteins using criteria such as limited homology in other bacterial genera, the presence of features similar to known VirB T4SS effectors, GC content and presence of eukaryotic-like motifs. Using β-lactamase and CyaA adenylate cyclase reporter assays, we identified eleven proteins translocated into host cells by Brucella, five in a VirB T4SS-dependent manner, namely BAB1_0678 (BspA), BAB1_0712 (BspB), BAB1_0847 (BspC), BAB1_1671 (BspE) and BAB1_1948 (BspF). A subset of the translocated proteins targeted secretory pathway compartments when ectopically expressed in HeLa cells, and the VirB effectors BspA, BspB and BspF inhibited protein secretion. Brucella infection also impaired host protein secretion in a process requiring BspA, BspB and BspF. Single or combined deletions of bspA, bspB and bspF affected Brucella ability to replicate in macrophages and persist in the liver of infected mice. Taken together, these findings demonstrate that Brucella modulates secretory trafficking via multiple T4SS effector proteins that likely act coordinately to promote Brucella pathogenesis.
Author Summary
Many intracellular parasites ensure their survival and proliferation within host cells by secreting an array of effector molecules that modulate various cellular functions. Among these, Brucella abortus, the causative agent of the worldwide zoonosis brucellosis, controls the intracellular trafficking of its vacuole, the Brucella-containing vacuole (BCV), towards compartments of the secretory pathway via the expression of a Type IV secretion system (T4SS), VirB, which is thought to translocate effector proteins. Here, we have used bioinformatic algorithms and protein translocation reporter assays to identify novel Brucella proteins translocated into host cells, some of which are VirB T4SS substrates and targeted secretory pathway compartments when ectopically expressed in mammalian cells. Three VirB effectors, BspA, BspB and BspF, inhibited protein secretion and contributed to varying degrees to bacterial inhibition of host protein secretion, pathogen intracellular growth and persistence in the liver of infected mice. These findings demonstrate that Brucella modulates secretory trafficking via multiple T4SS effector proteins to promote Brucella pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3738490  PMID: 23950720
9.  IRG and GBP Host Resistance Factors Target Aberrant, “Non-self” Vacuoles Characterized by the Missing of “Self” IRGM Proteins 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(6):e1003414.
Interferon-inducible GTPases of the Immunity Related GTPase (IRG) and Guanylate Binding Protein (GBP) families provide resistance to intracellular pathogenic microbes. IRGs and GBPs stably associate with pathogen-containing vacuoles (PVs) and elicit immune pathways directed at the targeted vacuoles. Targeting of Interferon-inducible GTPases to PVs requires the formation of higher-order protein oligomers, a process negatively regulated by a subclass of IRG proteins called IRGMs. We found that the paralogous IRGM proteins Irgm1 and Irgm3 fail to robustly associate with “non-self” PVs containing either the bacterial pathogen Chlamydia trachomatis or the protozoan pathogen Toxoplasma gondii. Instead, Irgm1 and Irgm3 reside on “self” organelles including lipid droplets (LDs). Whereas IRGM-positive LDs are guarded against the stable association with other IRGs and GBPs, we demonstrate that IRGM-stripped LDs become high affinity binding substrates for IRG and GBP proteins. These data reveal that intracellular immune recognition of organelle-like structures by IRG and GBP proteins is partly dictated by the missing of “self” IRGM proteins from these structures.
Author Summary
Cell-autonomous host defense pathways directed against vacuolar pathogens constitute an essential arm of the mammalian innate immune defense system. Underlying most of these defense strategies is the ability of the host cell to recognize foreign or pathogen-modified structures and to deliver antimicrobial molecules specifically to these sites. Specific targeting of molecules to pathogen-containing vacuoles (PVs) requires host cells to recognize PVs as “non-self” structures that are distinct from intact “self” structures like organelles and other endomembrane components. In this work, we develop a new framework for understanding a critical principle that guides the mammalian immune system in the recognition of PVs as “non-self” structures. Our data indicates that so-called IRGM proteins function as markers of “self” compartments. We find that IRGM proteins act as “guards” that prevent a set of antimicrobial GTPases from stable association with “self” membranes. Because IRGM proteins are largely absent from “non-self” PVs, we propose that intracellular immune recognition of PVs can occur via the missing of “self” IRGM proteins.
PMCID: PMC3681737  PMID: 23785284
10.  STING-Dependent Recognition of Cyclic di-AMP Mediates Type I Interferon Responses during Chlamydia trachomatis Infection 
mBio  2013;4(3):e00018-13.
STING (stimulator of interferon [IFN] genes) initiates type I IFN responses in mammalian cells through the detection of microbial nucleic acids. The membrane-bound obligate intracellular bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis induces a STING-dependent type I IFN response in infected cells, yet the IFN-inducing ligand remains unknown. In this report, we provide evidence that Chlamydia synthesizes cyclic di-AMP (c-di-AMP), a nucleic acid metabolite not previously identified in Gram-negative bacteria, and that this metabolite is a prominent ligand for STING-mediated activation of IFN responses during infection. We used primary mouse lung fibroblasts and HEK293T cells to compare IFN-β responses to Chlamydia infection, c-di-AMP, and other type I IFN-inducing stimuli. Chlamydia infection and c-di-AMP treatment induced type I IFN responses in cells expressing STING but not in cells expressing STING variants that cannot sense cyclic dinucleotides but still respond to cytoplasmic DNA. The failure to induce a type I IFN response to Chlamydia and c-di-AMP correlated with the inability of STING to relocalize from the endoplasmic reticulum to cytoplasmic punctate signaling complexes required for IFN activation. We conclude that Chlamydia induces STING-mediated IFN responses through the detection of c-di-AMP in the host cell cytosol and propose that c-di-AMP is the ligand predominantly responsible for inducing such a response in Chlamydia-infected cells.
This study shows that the Gram-negative obligate pathogen Chlamydia trachomatis, a major cause of pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility, synthesizes cyclic di-AMP (c-di-AMP), a nucleic acid metabolite that thus far has been described only in Gram-positive bacteria. We further provide evidence that the host cell employs an endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-localized cytoplasmic sensor, STING (stimulator of interferon [IFN] genes), to detect c-di-AMP synthesized by Chlamydia and induce a protective IFN response. This detection occurs even though Chlamydia is confined to a membrane-bound vacuole. This raises the possibility that the ER, an organelle that innervates the entire cytoplasm, is equipped with pattern recognition receptors that can directly survey membrane-bound pathogen-containing vacuoles for leaking microbe-specific metabolites to mount type I IFN responses required to control microbial infections.
PMCID: PMC3663186  PMID: 23631912
11.  Chlamydia Protease-Like Activity Factor (CPAF): Characterization of Proteolysis Activity In Vitro and Development of a Nanomolar Affinity CPAF Zymogen-Derived Inhibitor 
Biochemistry  2011;50(35):7441-7443.
During infection of epithelial cells, the obligate intracellular pathogen Chlamydia trachomatis secretes the serine protease CPAF into the host cytosol to regulate a range of host cellular processes through targeted proteolysis. Here we report the development of an in vitro assay for the enzyme and the discovery of a cell-permeable CPAF zymogen-based peptide inhibitor with nanomolar inhibitory affinity. Treating C. trachomatis-infected HeLa cells with this inhibitor prevented CPAF cleavage of the intermediate filament vimentin, and led to loss of vimentin-cage surrounding the intracellular vacuole. Because Chlamydia is a genetically intractable organism, this inhibitor may serve as a tool to understand the role of CPAF in pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3608462  PMID: 21830778
Chlamydia trachomatis; inhibitor; pathogenesis; protease
12.  Functional Plasticity in the Type IV Secretion System of Helicobacter pylori 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(2):e1003189.
Helicobacter pylori causes clinical disease primarily in those individuals infected with a strain that carries the cytotoxin associated gene pathogenicity island (cagPAI). The cagPAI encodes a type IV secretion system (T4SS) that injects the CagA oncoprotein into epithelial cells and is required for induction of the pro-inflammatory cytokine, interleukin-8 (IL-8). CagY is an essential component of the H. pylori T4SS that has an unusual sequence structure, in which an extraordinary number of direct DNA repeats is predicted to cause rearrangements that invariably yield in-frame insertions or deletions. Here we demonstrate in murine and non-human primate models that immune-driven host selection of rearrangements in CagY is sufficient to cause gain or loss of function in the H. pylori T4SS. We propose that CagY functions as a sort of molecular switch or perhaps a rheostat that alters the function of the T4SS and “tunes” the host inflammatory response so as to maximize persistent infection.
Author Summary
Helicobacter pylori is a bacterium that colonizes the stomach of about half the world's population, most of whom are asymptomatic. However, some strains of H. pylori express a bacterial secretion system, a sort of molecular syringe that injects a bacterial protein inside the gastric cells and causes inflammation that can lead to peptic ulcer disease or gastric cancer. One of the essential components of the H. pylori secretion system is CagY, which is unusual because it contains a series of repetitive amino acid motifs that are encoded by a very large number of direct DNA repeats. Here we have shown that DNA recombination in cagY changes the protein motif structure and alters the function of the secretion system—turning it on or off. Using mouse and non-human primate models, we have demonstrated that CagY is a molecular switch that “tunes” the host inflammatory response, and likely contributes to persistent infection. Determining the mechanism by which CagY functions will enhance our understanding of the effects of H. pylori on human health, and could lead to novel applications for the modulation of host cell function.
PMCID: PMC3585145  PMID: 23468628
13.  Quantitative proteomics reveals metabolic and pathogenic properties of Chlamydia trachomatis developmental forms 
Molecular microbiology  2011;82(5):1185-1203.
Chlamydia trachomatis is an obligate intracellular pathogen responsible for ocular and genital infections of significant public health importance. C. trachomatis undergoes a biphasic developmental cycle alternating between two distinct forms: the infectious elementary body (EB), and the replicative but non-infectious reticulate body (RB). The molecular basis for these developmental transitions and the metabolic properties of the EB and RB forms are poorly understood as these bacteria have traditionally been difficult to manipulate through classical genetic approaches. Using two-dimensional liquid chromatography – tandem mass spectrometry (LC/LC-MS/MS) we performed a large-scale, label-free quantitative proteomic analysis of C. trachomatis LGV-L2 EB and RB forms. Additionally, we carried out LC-MS/MS to analyze the membranes of the pathogen-containing vacuole (“inclusion”). We developed a label-free quantification approaches to measure protein abundance in a mixed-proteome background which we applied for EB and RB quantitative analysis. In this manner, we catalogued the relative distribution of >54% of the predicted proteins in the C. trachomatis LGV-L2 proteome. Proteins required for central metabolism and glucose catabolism were predominant in the EB, whereas proteins associated with protein synthesis, ATP generation and nutrient transport were more abundant in the RB. These findings suggest that the EB is primed for a burst in metabolic activity upon entry, whereas the RB form is geared towards nutrient utilization, a rapid increase in cellular mass, and securing the resources for an impending transition back to the EB form. The most revealing difference between the two forms was the relative deficiency of cytoplasmic factors required for efficient Type III secretion (T3S) in the RB stage at 18 hpi, suggesting a reduced T3S capacity or a low frequency of active T3S apparatus assembled on a “per organism” basis. Our results show that EB and RB proteomes are streamlined to fulfill their predicted biological functions: maximum infectivity for EBs and replicative capacity for RBs.
PMCID: PMC3225693  PMID: 22014092
Chlamydia; Pathogenesis; Elementary body; Reticulate body; quantitative proteomics
14.  The Chlamydia protease CPAF regulates host and bacterial proteins to maintain pathogen vacuole integrity and promote virulence 
Cell host & microbe  2011;10(1):21-32.
The obligate intracellular bacterial pathogen Chlamydia trachomatis injects numerous effector proteins into the epithelial cell cytoplasm to manipulate host functions important for bacterial survival. In addition, the bacterium secretes a serine protease, chlamydial protease-like activity factor (CPAF). Although several CPAF targets are reported, the significance of CPAF-mediated proteolysis is unclear due to the lack of specific CPAF inhibitors and the diversity of host targets. We report that CPAF also targets chlamydial effectors secreted early during the establishment of the pathogen-containing vacuole (“inclusion”). We designed a cell-permeable CPAF-specific inhibitory peptide and used it to determine that CPAF prevents superinfection by degrading early Chlamydia effectors translocated during entry into a pre-infected cell. Prolonged CPAF inhibition leads to loss of inclusion integrity and caspase-1-dependent death of infected epithelial cells. Thus, CPAF functions in niche protection, inclusion integrity and pathogen survival, making the development of CPAF-specific protease inhibitors an attractive anti-chlamydial therapeutic strategy.
PMCID: PMC3147293  PMID: 21767809
15.  A Cytotoxic Type III Secretion Effector of Vibrio parahaemolyticus Targets Vacuolar H+-ATPase Subunit c and Ruptures Host Cell Lysosomes 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(7):e1002803.
Vibrio parahaemolyticus is one of the human pathogenic vibrios. During the infection of mammalian cells, this pathogen exhibits cytotoxicity that is dependent on its type III secretion system (T3SS1). VepA, an effector protein secreted via the T3SS1, plays a major role in the T3SS1-dependent cytotoxicity of V. parahaemolyticus. However, the mechanism by which VepA is involved in T3SS1-dependent cytotoxicity is unknown. Here, we found that protein transfection of VepA into HeLa cells resulted in cell death, indicating that VepA alone is cytotoxic. The ectopic expression of VepA in yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae interferes with yeast growth, indicating that VepA is also toxic in yeast. A yeast genome-wide screen identified the yeast gene VMA3 as essential for the growth inhibition of yeast by VepA. Although VMA3 encodes subunit c of the vacuolar H+-ATPase (V-ATPase), the toxicity of VepA was independent of the function of V-ATPases. In HeLa cells, knockdown of V-ATPase subunit c decreased VepA-mediated cytotoxicity. We also demonstrated that VepA interacted with V-ATPase subunit c, whereas a carboxyl-terminally truncated mutant of VepA (VepAΔC), which does not show toxicity, did not. During infection, lysosomal contents leaked into the cytosol, revealing that lysosomal membrane permeabilization occurred prior to cell lysis. In a cell-free system, VepA was sufficient to induce the release of cathepsin D from isolated lysosomes. Therefore, our data suggest that the bacterial effector VepA targets subunit c of V-ATPase and induces the rupture of host cell lysosomes and subsequent cell death.
Author Summary
Vibrio parahaemolyticus is a bacterial pathogen that causes food-borne gastroenteritis and also wound infection and septicemia. It exhibits cytotoxicity that is dependent on its type III secretion system (T3SS1) during the infection of mammalian cells. Although an effector VepA plays a major role in the cytotoxicity, the mechanism was unknown. Here we show that VepA targets subunit c of the vacuolar H+-ATPase (V-ATPase) and induces the rupture of host cell lysosomes. We found that VepA alone is cytotoxic in HeLa cells and also toxic in yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Using a yeast genome-wide screening, we identified yeast V-ATPase subunit c as essential for the toxicity of VepA to yeast. We also demonstrated that knockdown of V-ATPase subunit c decreased VepA-mediated cytotoxicity toward HeLa cells and that VepA interacted with subunit c of V-ATPase. During infection, lysosomal contents leaked into the cytosol prior to cell lysis, and VepA was necessary and sufficient for this leakage. Our data suggest that a bacterial effector VepA ruptures lysosomes, the “suicide bags” of host cells, by targeting the evolutionarily conserved V-ATPase, and elicits subsequent cell death.
PMCID: PMC3400558  PMID: 22829766
16.  Inflammation and Disintegration of Intestinal Villi in an Experimental Model for Vibrio parahaemolyticus-Induced Diarrhea 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(3):e1002593.
Vibrio parahaemolyticus is a leading cause of seafood-borne gastroenteritis in many parts of the world, but there is limited knowledge of the pathogenesis of V. parahaemolyticus-induced diarrhea. The absence of an oral infection-based small animal model to study V. parahaemolyticus intestinal colonization and disease has constrained analyses of the course of infection and the factors that mediate it. Here, we demonstrate that infant rabbits oro-gastrically inoculated with V. parahaemolyticus develop severe diarrhea and enteritis, the main clinical and pathologic manifestations of disease in infected individuals. The pathogen principally colonizes the distal small intestine, and this colonization is dependent upon type III secretion system 2. The distal small intestine is also the major site of V. parahaemolyticus-induced tissue damage, reduced epithelial barrier function, and inflammation, suggesting that disease in this region of the gastrointestinal tract accounts for most of the diarrhea that accompanies V. parahaemolyticus infection. Infection appears to proceed through a characteristic sequence of steps that includes remarkable elongation of microvilli and the formation of V. parahaemolyticus-filled cavities within the epithelial surface, and culminates in villus disruption. Both depletion of epithelial cell cytoplasm and epithelial cell extrusion contribute to formation of the cavities in the epithelial surface. V. parahaemolyticus also induces proliferation of epithelial cells and recruitment of inflammatory cells, both of which occur before wide-spread damage to the epithelium is evident. Collectively, our findings suggest that V. parahaemolyticus damages the host intestine and elicits disease via previously undescribed processes and mechanisms.
Author Summary
The marine bacterium Vibrio parahaemolyticus is a leading cause worldwide of gastroenteritis linked to the consumption of contaminated seafood. Despite the prevalence of V. parahaemolyticus-induced gastroenteritis, there is limited understanding of how this pathogen causes disease in the intestine. In part, the paucity of knowledge results from the absence of an oral infection-based animal model of the human disease. We developed a simple oral infection-based infant rabbit model of V. parahaemolyticus-induced intestinal pathology and diarrhea. This experimental model enabled us to define several previously unknown but key features of the pathology elicited by this organism. We found that V. parahaemolyticus chiefly colonizes the distal small intestine and that the organism's second type III secretion system is essential for colonization. The epithelial surface of the distal small intestine is also the major site of V. parahaemolyticus-induced damage, which arises via a characteristic sequence of events culminating in the formation of V. parahaemolyticus-filled cavities in the epithelial surface. This experimental model will transform future studies aimed at deciphering the bacterial and host factors/processes that contribute to disease, as well as enable testing of new therapeutics to prevent and/or combat infection.
PMCID: PMC3305451  PMID: 22438811
17.  Phosphorylation of CRN2 by CK2 regulates F-actin and Arp2/3 interaction and inhibits cell migration 
Scientific Reports  2012;2:241.
CRN2 (synonyms: coronin 1C, coronin 3) functions in the re-organization of the actin network and is implicated in cellular processes like protrusion formation, secretion, migration and invasion. We demonstrate that CRN2 is a binding partner and substrate of protein kinase CK2, which phosphorylates CRN2 at S463 in its C-terminal coiled coil domain. Phosphomimetic S463D CRN2 loses the wild-type CRN2 ability to inhibit actin polymerization, to bundle F-actin, and to bind to the Arp2/3 complex. As a consequence, S463D mutant CRN2 changes the morphology of the F-actin network in the front of lamellipodia. Our data imply that CK2-dependent phosphorylation of CRN2 is involved in the modulation of the local morphology of complex actin structures and thereby inhibits cell migration.
PMCID: PMC3268813  PMID: 22355754
18.  Acquisition of nutrients by Chlamydiae: unique challenges of living in an intracellular compartment 
The Chlamydiae are obligate intracellular pathogen that replicate within a membrane-bound vacuole, termed the “inclusion”. From this compartment, bacteria acquire essential nutrients by selectively redirecting transport vesicles and hijacking intracellular organelles. Re-routing is achieved by several mechanisms including proteolysis-mediated fragmentation of the Golgi apparatus, recruitment of Rab GTPases and SNAREs, and translocation of cytoplasmic organelles into the inclusion lumen. Given Chlamydiae’s extended co-evolution with eukaryotic cells, it is likely that co-option of multiple cellular pathways is a strategy to provide redundancy in the acquisition of essential nutrients from the host and has contributed to the success of these highly adapted pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3202608  PMID: 20006538
19.  Chlamydia trachomatis Co-opts the FGF2 Signaling Pathway to Enhance Infection 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(10):e1002285.
The molecular details of Chlamydia trachomatis binding, entry, and spread are incompletely understood, but heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs) play a role in the initial binding steps. As cell surface HSPGs facilitate the interactions of many growth factors with their receptors, we investigated the role of HSPG-dependent growth factors in C. trachomatis infection. Here, we report a novel finding that Fibroblast Growth Factor 2 (FGF2) is necessary and sufficient to enhance C. trachomatis binding to host cells in an HSPG-dependent manner. FGF2 binds directly to elementary bodies (EBs) where it may function as a bridging molecule to facilitate interactions of EBs with the FGF receptor (FGFR) on the cell surface. Upon EB binding, FGFR is activated locally and contributes to bacterial uptake into non-phagocytic cells. We further show that C. trachomatis infection stimulates fgf2 transcription and enhances production and release of FGF2 through a pathway that requires bacterial protein synthesis and activation of the Erk1/2 signaling pathway but that is independent of FGFR activation. Intracellular replication of the bacteria results in host proteosome-mediated degradation of the high molecular weight (HMW) isoforms of FGF2 and increased amounts of the low molecular weight (LMW) isoforms, which are released upon host cell death. Finally, we demonstrate the in vivo relevance of these findings by showing that conditioned medium from C. trachomatis infected cells is enriched for LMW FGF2, accounting for its ability to enhance C. trachomatis infectivity in additional rounds of infection. Together, these results demonstrate that C. trachomatis utilizes multiple mechanisms to co-opt the host cell FGF2 pathway to enhance bacterial infection and spread.
Author Summary
Chlamydia trachomatis is an obligate intracellular bacterium that is an important cause of human disease, including sexually transmitted diseases and acquired blindness in developing countries. The inability to carry out conventional genetic manipulations limits our understanding of the mechanisms of C. trachomatis binding, entry, and spread. Previous studies have shown that heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs) play a role in early binding events. As cell surface HSPGs facilitate the interactions of many growth factors with their receptors, we investigated whether HSPG-associated growth factors affect C. trachomatis binding or entry. Here, we report the novel finding that Fibroblast Growth Factor 2 (FGF2), a ubiquitously expressed growth factor, enhances C. trachomatis binding to host cells in an HSPG-dependent manner. Furthermore, C. trachomatis infection stimulates production and release of FGF2 through distinct signaling pathways. Released FGF2 is sufficient to enhance the subsequent rounds of infection. Together, these results demonstrate that C. trachomatis utilizes multiple mechanisms to co-opt the host cell FGF2 pathway that sets up a positive feedback loop to enhance bacterial infection and spread.
PMCID: PMC3188521  PMID: 21998584
20.  Development of a Transformation System for Chlamydia trachomatis: Restoration of Glycogen Biosynthesis by Acquisition of a Plasmid Shuttle Vector 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(9):e1002258.
Chlamydia trachomatis remains one of the few major human pathogens for which there is no transformation system. C. trachomatis has a unique obligate intracellular developmental cycle. The extracellular infectious elementary body (EB) is an infectious, electron-dense structure that, following host cell infection, differentiates into a non-infectious replicative form known as a reticulate body (RB). Host cells infected by C. trachomatis that are treated with penicillin are not lysed because this antibiotic prevents the maturation of RBs into EBs. Instead the RBs fail to divide although DNA replication continues. We have exploited these observations to develop a transformation protocol based on expression of β-lactamase that utilizes rescue from the penicillin-induced phenotype. We constructed a vector which carries both the chlamydial endogenous plasmid and an E.coli plasmid origin of replication so that it can shuttle between these two bacterial recipients. The vector, when introduced into C. trachomatis L2 under selection conditions, cures the endogenous chlamydial plasmid. We have shown that foreign promoters operate in vivo in C. trachomatis and that active β-lactamase and chloramphenicol acetyl transferase are expressed. To demonstrate the technology we have isolated chlamydial transformants that express the green fluorescent protein (GFP). As proof of principle, we have shown that manipulation of chlamydial biochemistry is possible by transformation of a plasmid-free C. trachomatis recipient strain. The acquisition of the plasmid restores the ability of the plasmid-free C. trachomatis to synthesise and accumulate glycogen within inclusions. These findings pave the way for a comprehensive genetic study on chlamydial gene function that has hitherto not been possible. Application of this technology avoids the use of therapeutic antibiotics and therefore the procedures do not require high level containment and will allow the analysis of genome function by complementation.
Author Summary
C. trachomatis is a major human pathogen for which there is no means of genetically manipulating its DNA. It is an obligate intracellular bacterium which has a complex developmental cycle that takes place in a specialized host cell cytoplasmic vacuole known as an inclusion. We have constructed a shuttle vector based on the chlamydial plasmid and developed a new approach to select genetically modified bacteria. It uses rescue by selection of stable infectious, penicillin-resistant C. trachomatis from a pool of non-dividing, non-infectious C. trachomatis (induced by penicillin arrest of the developmental cycle). The transformed C. trachomatis is also cured of its endogenous plasmid by the selection of the transforming vector. The vector was modified to express the green fluorescent protein (GFP) in both Chlamydia and E. coli. We have genetically manipulated a plasmid-free recipient strain of C. trachomatis and shown restoration of the ability of this recipient strain to synthesize and accumulate glycogen within inclusions upon acquisition of the shuttle vector. The ability to transform and manipulate C. trachomatis using a complementation based vector is an important advance that opens up the field of Chlamydia research.
PMCID: PMC3178582  PMID: 21966270
21.  Chlamydia trachomatis Co-opts GBF1 and CERT to Acquire Host Sphingomyelin for Distinct Roles during Intracellular Development 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(9):e1002198.
The obligate intracellular pathogen Chlamydia trachomatis replicates within a membrane-bound inclusion that acquires host sphingomyelin (SM), a process that is essential for replication as well as inclusion biogenesis. Previous studies demonstrate that SM is acquired by a Brefeldin A (BFA)-sensitive vesicular trafficking pathway, although paradoxically, this pathway is dispensable for bacterial replication. This finding suggests that other lipid transport mechanisms are involved in the acquisition of host SM. In this work, we interrogated the role of specific components of BFA-sensitive and BFA-insensitive lipid trafficking pathways to define their contribution in SM acquisition during infection. We found that C. trachomatis hijacks components of both vesicular and non-vesicular lipid trafficking pathways for SM acquisition but that the SM obtained from these separate pathways is being utilized by the pathogen in different ways. We show that C. trachomatis selectively co-opts only one of the three known BFA targets, GBF1, a regulator of Arf1-dependent vesicular trafficking within the early secretory pathway for vesicle-mediated SM acquisition. The Arf1/GBF1-dependent pathway of SM acquisition is essential for inclusion membrane growth and stability but is not required for bacterial replication. In contrast, we show that C. trachomatis co-opts CERT, a lipid transfer protein that is a key component in non-vesicular ER to trans-Golgi trafficking of ceramide (the precursor for SM), for C. trachomatis replication. We demonstrate that C. trachomatis recruits CERT, its ER binding partner, VAP-A, and SM synthases, SMS1 and SMS2, to the inclusion and propose that these proteins establish an on-site SM biosynthetic factory at or near the inclusion. We hypothesize that SM acquired by CERT-dependent transport of ceramide and subsequent conversion to SM is necessary for C. trachomatis replication whereas SM acquired by the GBF1-dependent pathway is essential for inclusion growth and stability. Our results reveal a novel mechanism by which an intracellular pathogen redirects SM biosynthesis to its replicative niche.
Author Summary
C. trachomatis is the leading cause of non-congenital blindness in developing countries and is the number one cause of sexually transmitted disease and non-congenital infertility in Western countries. The capacity of Chlamydia infections to lead to infertility and blindness, their association with chronic diseases, and the extraordinary prevalence and array of these infections make them public concerns of primary importance. This pathogen must establish a protective membrane-bound niche and acquire essential lipids from the host cell during infection in order to survive and replicate. This study identifies novel mechanisms by which C. trachomatis hijacks various lipid trafficking proteins for distinct roles during intracellular development. Disruption of these lipid trafficking pathways results in alterations in the growth and stability of its protective niche as well as a defect in replication. Understanding the molecular mechanisms of these host-pathogen interactions will lead to rational approaches for the development of novel therapeutics, diagnostics, and preventative strategies.
PMCID: PMC3164637  PMID: 21909260
22.  Rerouting of Host Lipids by Bacteria: Are You CERTain You Need a Vesicle? 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(9):e1002208.
PMCID: PMC3164641  PMID: 21909265
23.  Recruitment of the Major Vault Protein by InlK: A Listeria monocytogenes Strategy to Avoid Autophagy 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(8):e1002168.
L. monocytogenes is a facultative intracellular bacterium responsible for listeriosis. It is able to invade, survive and replicate in phagocytic and non-phagocytic cells. The infectious process at the cellular level has been extensively studied and many virulence factors have been identified. Yet, the role of InlK, a member of the internalin family specific to L. monocytogenes, remains unknown. Here, we first show using deletion analysis and in vivo infection, that InlK is a bona fide virulence factor, poorly expressed in vitro and well expressed in vivo, and that it is anchored to the bacterial surface by sortase A. We then demonstrate by a yeast two hybrid screen using InlK as a bait, validated by pulldown experiments and immunofluorescence analysis that intracytosolic bacteria via an interaction with the protein InlK interact with the Major Vault Protein (MVP), the main component of cytoplasmic ribonucleoproteic particules named vaults. Although vaults have been implicated in several cellular processes, their role has remained elusive. Our analysis demonstrates that MVP recruitment disguises intracytosolic bacteria from autophagic recognition, leading to an increased survival rate of InlK over-expressing bacteria compared to InlK− bacteria. Together these results reveal that MVP is hijacked by L. monocytogenes in order to counteract the autophagy process, a finding that could have major implications in deciphering the cellular role of vault particles.
Author Summary
L. monocytogenes is a food-born pathogen responsible for listeriosis, a severe illness with a high mortality rate, which mainly affects immunocompromised patients and pregnant women. The bacterium is a facultative intracellular pathogen able to invade, survive and multiply in large variety of cells. Although the infectious process at the cellular level has been extensively studied, the role of InlK, a surface protein specific to L. monocytogenes, remains unknown. Here we established that L. monocytogenes use InlK to interact with a mammalian cytoplasmic protein named Major Vault Protein (MVP). Although MVP has been implicated in diverse cellular processes, its role remains elusive. Here we demonstrate that, inside the cell, L. monocytogenes is able, via InlK, to decorate its surface with MVP to escape autophagy, an innate immune defense system that protects the cell from invading pathogens. L. monocytogenes uses this camouflage strategy to efficiently survive inside cells.
PMCID: PMC3150275  PMID: 21829365
24.  Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging Unravels C. trachomatis Metabolism and Its Crosstalk with the Host Cell 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(7):e1002108.
Chlamydia trachomatis is an obligate intracellular bacterium that alternates between two metabolically different developmental forms. We performed fluorescence lifetime imaging (FLIM) of the metabolic coenzymes, reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotides [NAD(P)H], by two-photon microscopy for separate analysis of host and pathogen metabolism during intracellular chlamydial infections. NAD(P)H autofluorescence was detected inside the chlamydial inclusion and showed enhanced signal intensity on the inclusion membrane as demonstrated by the co-localization with the 14-3-3β host cell protein. An increase of the fluorescence lifetime of protein-bound NAD(P)H [τ2-NAD(P)H] inside the chlamydial inclusion strongly correlated with enhanced metabolic activity of chlamydial reticulate bodies during the mid-phase of infection. Inhibition of host cell metabolism that resulted in aberrant intracellular chlamydial inclusion morphology completely abrogated the τ2-NAD(P)H increase inside the chlamydial inclusion. τ2-NAD(P)H also decreased inside chlamydial inclusions when the cells were treated with IFNγ reflecting the reduced metabolism of persistent chlamydiae. Furthermore, a significant increase in τ2-NAD(P)H and a decrease in the relative amount of free NAD(P)H inside the host cell nucleus indicated cellular starvation during intracellular chlamydial infection. Using FLIM analysis by two-photon microscopy we could visualize for the first time metabolic pathogen-host interactions during intracellular Chlamydia trachomatis infections with high spatial and temporal resolution in living cells. Our findings suggest that intracellular chlamydial metabolism is directly linked to cellular NAD(P)H signaling pathways that are involved in host cell survival and longevity.
Author Summary
Separate analysis of host and pathogen metabolic changes in intracellular C. trachomatis infections is arduous and has not been comprehensively realized so far. A more detailed understanding about the metabolic activity and needs of C. trachomatis and its specific interactions with the host cell would be the basis for the development of novel treatment strategies. We therefore applied fluorescence lifetime imaging (FLIM) of the metabolic coenzymes NAD(P)H using two-photon microscopy to directly visualize metabolic changes of host cells and pathogens in living cells. NAD(P)H fluorescence was detected both on the chlamydial inclusion membrane and inside the inclusion. Interestingly, changes in chlamydial growth and progeny induced by glucose starvation and IFNγ treatment were directly linked to significant changes of the NAD(P)H fluorescence lifetimes inside the inclusions. Furthermore, measurement of the NAD(P)H fluorescence lifetime in the host cell nucleus revealed that infected cells were programmed for starvation during the metabolically active phase of intracellular chlamydial growth. Our findings highlight for the first time a direct interaction between host and pathogen metabolism in intracellular bacterial infections that exceeds sole competition for nutrients. In conclusion, fluorescence lifetime imaging of NAD(P)H by two-photon microscopy enables real-time analysis of metabolic host-pathogen interactions in intracellular infections with high spatial and temporal resolution.
PMCID: PMC3136453  PMID: 21779161
25.  The Lipid Transfer Protein CERT Interacts with the Chlamydia Inclusion Protein IncD and Participates to ER-Chlamydia Inclusion Membrane Contact Sites 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(6):e1002092.
Bacterial pathogens that reside in membrane bound compartment manipulate the host cell machinery to establish and maintain their intracellular niche. The hijacking of inter-organelle vesicular trafficking through the targeting of small GTPases or SNARE proteins has been well established. Here, we show that intracellular pathogens also establish direct membrane contact sites with organelles and exploit non-vesicular transport machinery. We identified the ER-to-Golgi ceramide transfer protein CERT as a host cell factor specifically recruited to the inclusion, a membrane-bound compartment harboring the obligate intracellular pathogen Chlamydia trachomatis. We further showed that CERT recruitment to the inclusion correlated with the recruitment of VAPA/B-positive tubules in close proximity of the inclusion membrane, suggesting that ER-Inclusion membrane contact sites are formed upon C. trachomatis infection. Moreover, we identified the C. trachomatis effector protein IncD as a specific binding partner for CERT. Finally we showed that depletion of either CERT or the VAP proteins impaired bacterial development. We propose that the presence of IncD, CERT, VAPA/B, and potentially additional host and/or bacterial factors, at points of contact between the ER and the inclusion membrane provides a specialized metabolic and/or signaling microenvironment favorable to bacterial development.
Author Summary
The obligate intracellular bacterial pathogen Chlamydia has developed strategies to invade, survive and replicate within the host genital, ocular and pulmonary epithelial surfaces. Chlamydia developmental cycle occurs in a membrane bound vacuole, the inclusion. The Chlamydia-dependent remodeling of the inclusion membrane leads to a unique and specialized compartment that allows for the specific interaction with cellular organelles and the acquisition of molecules and nutrients required for bacterial survival and replication. This study provides an example of how the insertion of C. trachomatis proteins into the inclusion membrane may allow the bacteria to manipulate the host cells to its own benefit. We showed that the lipid transfer protein CERT localized to C. trachomatis inclusion membrane and partly co-localized with the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) protein VAPB. Moreover, VAPB positive tubules made close contact with the inclusion membrane, suggesting the formation of ER-Inclusion membrane contact sites upon C. trachomatis infection. Finally, we have shown that CERT interacted with the C. trachomatis inclusion protein IncD. We propose that the presence of CERT, VAPB and IncD at ER-Inclusion membrane contact sites allow C. trachomatis to exploit the non-vesicular lipid transport machinery of the host cell and generate platforms specialized in metabolism and signaling events favorable to bacterial development.
PMCID: PMC3121800  PMID: 21731489

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