Anaplasma phagocytophilum is an obligatory intracellular bacterium that infects neutrophils, the primary host defense cells. Consequent effects of infection on host cells result in a potentially fatal systemic disease called human granulocytic anaplasmosis. Despite ongoing reductive genome evolution and deletion of most genes for intermediary metabolism and amino acid biosynthesis, Anaplasma has also experienced expansion of genes encoding several components of the Type IV secretion (T4S) apparatus. Two A. phagocytophilum T4S effector molecules are currently known; Anaplasma translocated substrate 1 (Ats-1) and ankyrin repeat domain–containing protein A (AnkA) have C-terminal positively charged amino acid residues that are recognized by the T4S coupling protein, VirD4. AnkA and Ats-1 contain eukaryotic protein motifs and are uniquely evolved in the family Anaplasmataceae; Ats-1 contains a mitochondria-targeting signal. They are abundantly produced and secreted into the host cytoplasm, are not toxic to host cells, and manipulate host cell processes to aid in the infection process. At the cellular level, the two effectors have distinct subcellular localization and signaling in host cells. Thus in this obligatory intracellular pathogen, the T4S system has evolved as a host-subversive survival factor.
Ehrlichia chaffeensis is an obligate intracellular bacterium that causes human monocytic ehrlichiosis. Ehrlichiae have a biphasic developmental cycle consisting of dense-cored cells (DCs) and reticulate cells (RCs). Isolated DCs are more stress resistant and infectious than RCs. Here, we report that a response regulator, CtrA was upregulated in human monocytes at the late growth stage when DCs develop. E. chaffeensis CtrA bound to the promoters of late-stage transcribed genes: ctrA, ompA (peptidoglycan-associated lipoprotein), bolA (stress-induced morphogen), and surE (stationary phase survival protein), which contain CtrA-binding motifs, and transactivated ompA, surE, and bolA promoter-lacZ fusions in Escherichia coli. OmpA was predominantly expressed in DCs. E. chaffeensis binding to and subsequent infection of monocytes were inhibited by anti-OmpA IgG. E. chaffeensis BolA bound to the promoters of genes encoding outer surface proteins TRP120 and ECH_1038, which were expressed in DCs, and transactivated trp120 and ECH_1038 promoter-lacZ fusions. E. chaffeensis bolA complemented a stress-sensitive E. coli bolA mutant. E. coli expressing E. chaffeensis surE exhibited increased resistance to osmotic stress. Our results suggest that E. chaffeensis CtrA plays a role in coordinating development of the stress resistance for passage from the present to the next host cells through its regulon.
Summary: Anaplasma phagocytophilum persists in nature by cycling between mammals and ticks. Human infection by the bite of an infected tick leads to a potentially fatal emerging disease called human granulocytic anaplasmosis. A. phagocytophilum is an obligatory intracellular bacterium that replicates inside mammalian granulocytes and the salivary gland and midgut cells of ticks. A. phagocytophilum evolved the remarkable ability to hijack the regulatory system of host cells. A. phagocytophilum alters vesicular traffic to create an intracellular membrane-bound compartment that allows replication in seclusion from lysosomes. The bacterium downregulates or actively inhibits a number of innate immune responses of mammalian host cells, and it upregulates cellular cholesterol uptake to acquire cholesterol for survival. It also upregulates several genes critical for the infection of ticks, and it prolongs tick survival at freezing temperatures. Several host factors that exacerbate infection have been identified, including interleukin-8 (IL-8) and cholesterol. Host factors that overcome infection include IL-12 and gamma interferon (IFN-γ). Two bacterial type IV secretion effectors and several bacterial proteins that associate with inclusion membranes have been identified. An understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying A. phagocytophilum infection will foster the development of creative ideas to prevent or treat this emerging tick-borne disease.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is an obligately intracellular bacterium and is the causative agent of human granulocytic anaplasmosis (HGA), an emerging and major tick-borne disease in the USA and other parts of the world. This study showed that the prenylation inhibitor manumycin A effectively blocked A. phagocytophilum infection in host cells (HL-60 or RF/6A cells). A. phagocytophilum infection activated extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) mitogen-activated protein kinase in host cells, and manumycin A treatment reduced ERK activation in A. phagocytophilum-infected host cells. As ERK activation is required for A. phagocytophilum infection, we examined whether manumycin A inhibited the bacteria directly or through host ERK signalling. Treatment of A. phagocytophilum alone with manumycin A significantly reduced the bacterial infectivity of host cells and bacterial viability in the absence of host cells, whereas pre-treatment of host cells did not inhibit bacterial infection in host cells. The inhibitory effect of manumycin A on A. phagocytophilum infection in host cells was achieved even at a concentration 100 times lower than that required for effective inhibition of mammalian cell signalling. These results suggested that manumycin A directly inactivates the bacterium, resulting in reduced infection and ERK1/2 activation. Thus, the manumycin group of drugs may have a therapeutic potential for HGA.
Human monocytic ehrlichiosis, an influenza-like illness accompanied by signs of hepatitis, is caused by infection of monocytes/macrophages with a lipopolysaccharide-deficient bacterium, Ehrlichia chaffeensis. The E. chaffeensis strain Wakulla induces diffuse hepatitis with neutrophil infiltration in mice with severe combined immunodeficiency, which is accompanied by strong CXCL2 (mouse functional homolog of interleukin-8 [IL-8]) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) expression in the liver. In this study, we found that expression of IL-1β, CXCL2, and TNF-α was induced by strain Wakulla in mouse bone marrow-derived macrophages; this expression was dependent on MyD88, but not on TRIF, TLR2/4, IL-1R1/IL-18R1, or endosome acidification. When the human leukemia cell line THP-1 was exposed to E. chaffeensis, significant upregulation of IL-8, IL-1β, and TNF-α mRNA and extracellular regulated kinase 2 (ERK2) activation were detected. U0126 (inhibitor of mitogen-activated protein kinase/extracellular signal-regulated kinase kinase 1/2 [MEK1/2] upstream of ERK), manumycin A (Ras inhibitor), BAY43-9006 (Raf-1 inhibitor), and NS-50 (inhibitor of NF-κB nuclear translocation) inhibited the cytokine gene expression. A luciferase reporter assay using HEK293 cells, which lack Toll-like receptors (TLRs), showed activation of both the IL-8 promoter and NF-κB by E. chaffeensis. Activation of the IL-8 promoter in transfected HEK293 cells was inhibited by manumycin A, BAY43-9006, U0126, and transfection with a dominant-negative Ras mutant. These results indicate that the E. chaffeensis Wakulla strain can induce inflammatory responses through MyD88-dependent NF-κB and ERK pathways, without the involvement of TRIF and TLRs.
Cyclic dimeric GMP (c-di-GMP), a bacterial second messenger, is known to regulate bacterial biofilm and sessility. Replication of an obligatory intracellular pathogen, Ehrlichia chaffeensis, is characterized by formation of bacterial aggregates called morulae inside membrane-bound inclusions. When E. chaffeensis matures into an infectious form, morulae become loose to allow bacteria to exit from host cells to infect adjacent cells. E. chaffeensis expresses a sensor kinase, PleC, and a cognate response regulator, PleD, which can produce c-di-GMP. A hydrophobic c-di-GMP antagonist, 2′-O-di(tert-butyldimethysilyl)-c-di-GMP (CDGA) inhibits E. chaffeensis internalization into host cells by facilitating degradation of some bacterial surface proteins via endogenous serine proteases. In the present study, we found that PleC and PleD were upregulated synchronously during exponential growth of bacteria, concomitant with increased morula size. While CDGA did not affect host cells, when infected cells were treated with CDGA, bacterial proliferation was inhibited, morulae became less compact, and the intracellular movement of bacteria was enhanced. Concurrently, CDGA treatment facilitated the extracellular release of bacteria with lower infectivity than those spontaneously released from sham-treated cells. Addition of CDGA to isolated inclusions induced dispersion of the morulae, degradation of an inclusion matrix protein TRP120, and bacterial intrainclusion movement, all of which were blocked by a serine protease inhibitor. These results suggest that c-di-GMP signaling regulates aggregation and sessility of E. chaffeensis within the inclusion through stabilization of matrix proteins by preventing the serine protease activity, which is associated with bacterial intracellular proliferation and maturation.
Summary of recent advances
The obligatory intracellular bacterial pathogens Anaplasma and Ehrlichia infect leukocytes by hijacking host-cell components and processes. The type IV secretion system is up-regulated during infection. Among type IV secretion candidate substrates, an ankyrin repeat protein of Anaplasma phagocytophilum, AnkA, is delivered into the host cytoplasm via a complex that includes VirD4. AnkA is highly tyrosine-phosphorylated and binds to the Abl interactor 1, SHP-1, and nuclear DNA fragments. Ehrlichia chaffeensis AnkA was recently reported to be translocated into host cell nucleus. The recent discovery of several ankyrin repeat proteins secreted via the type IV secretion system of different intracellular bacteria suggests that a common strategy evolved to subvert host-cell functions.
Anaplasma platys infects peripheral blood platelets and causes infectious cyclic thrombocytopenia in canines. The genes, proteins, and antigens of A. platys are largely unknown, and an antigen for serodiagnosis of A. platys has not yet been identified. In this study, we cloned the A. platys major outer membrane protein cluster, including the P44/Msp2 expression locus (p44ES/msp2ES) and outer membrane protein (OMP), using DNA isolated from the blood of four naturally infected dogs from Venezuela and Taiwan, Republic of China. A. platys p44ES is located within a 4-kb genomic region downstream from a putative transcriptional regulator, tr1, and a homolog of the Anaplasma phagocytophilum, identified here as A. platys omp-1X. The predicted molecular masses of the four mature A. platys P44ES proteins ranged from 43.3 to 43.5 kDa. Comparative analyses of the deduced amino acid sequences of Tr1, OMP-1X, and P44/Msp2 proteins from A. platys with those from A. phagocytophilum showed sequence identities of 86.4% for Tr1, 45.9% to 46.3% for OMP-1X, and 55.0% to 56.9% for P44/Msp2. Comparison between A. platys and Anaplasma marginale proteins showed sequence identities of 73.1% for Tr1/Tr, 39.8% for OMP-1X/OMP1, and 41.5% to 42.1% for P44/Msp2. A synthetic OMP-1X peptide was shown to react with A. platys-positive sera but not with A. platys-negative sera or A. phagocytophilum-positive sera. Together, determination of the genomic locus of A. platys outer membrane proteins not only contributes to the fundamental understanding of this enigmatic pathogen but also helps in developing A. platys-specific PCR and serodiagnosis.
Neorickettsia sennetsu is an obligate intracellular bacterium of monocytes and macrophages and is the etiologic agent of human Sennetsu neorickettsiosis. Neorickettsia proteins expressed in mammalian host cells, including the surface proteins of Neorickettsia spp., have not been defined. In this paper, we isolated surface-exposed proteins from N. sennetsu by biotin surface labeling followed by streptavidin-affinity chromatography. Forty-two of the total of 936 (4.5%) N. sennetsu open reading frames (ORFs) were detected by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS), including six hypothetical proteins. Among the major proteins identified were the two major β-barrel proteins: the 51-kDa antigen (P51) and Neorickettsia surface protein 3 (Nsp3). Immunofluorescence labeling not only confirmed surface exposure of these proteins but also showed rosary-like circumferential labeling with anti-P51 for the majority of bacteria and polar to diffuse punctate labeling with anti-Nsp3 for a minority of bacteria. We found that the isolated outer membrane of N. sennetsu had porin activity, as measured by a proteoliposome swelling assay. This activity allowed the diffusion of l-glutamine, the monosaccharides arabinose and glucose, and the tetrasaccharide stachyose, which could be inhibited with anti-P51 antibody. We purified native P51 and Nsp3 under nondenaturing conditions. When reconstituted into proteoliposomes, purified P51, but not Nsp3, exhibited prominent porin activity. This the first proteomic study of a Neorickettsia sp. showing new sets of proteins evolved as major surface proteins for Neorickettsia and the first identification of a porin for the genus Neorickettsia.
Detection of Ehrlichia chaffeensis is necessary to study interactions between the parasite and its vertebrate and invertebrate hosts. The purpose of this study was to develop a sensitive, specific PCR assay for E. chaffeensis based on the outer membrane protein gene, p28. Candidate primer sets were identified and ranked based on annealing scores, similarities to three major p28 sequence clusters, dissimilarity to E. canis p30, an ortholog of p28, and the proximities of flanking primer sequences for nested PCR. The relative sensitivities of five optimized single-step and two nested PCR assays were determined, and the most sensitive assay was found to be a single-step PCR that was as much as 1000-fold more sensitive than a standard 16S rDNA-based nested PCR assay. This p28-based PCR assay amplified the target amplicon from isolates representative of all three major clusters of known p28 sequences, and this assay did not amplify template prepared from either of the two species most closely related to E. chaffeensis, E. canis and E. muris. These results indicate that this sensitive, specific and isolate-universal single-step PCR assay will be a useful tool in characterizing the transmission of this important zoonotic pathogen.
Ehrlichia chaffeensis; Human monocytic ehrlichiosis; PCR assay
Human monocytic ehrlichiosis (HME) is a zoonotic emerging tick-borne disease with clinical signs that range from mild symptoms to multiple organ failure and death. Ehrlichia chaffeensis, the aetiologic agent of HME, is reported to infect a divergent range of mammals. Although cattle are common hosts of the primary vector of this pathogen, the susceptibility of this host to E. chaffeensis has not been reported to date. This study was undertaken to determine if cattle could provide a useful infection model of E. chaffeensis. Dairy calves were injected with DH82 cells infected with the Arkansas, St Vincent or 91HE17 strain of E. chaffeensis, and monitored for signs of clinical ehrlichiosis and for infection of peripheral blood and ticks by PCR assay. Splenectomized and spleen-intact calves were injected with cryopreserved stabilates of E. chaffeensis-infected DH82 cells for the first experiment. Mild clinical signs were occasionally observed among these calves, and only two blood samples were PCR-positive, while several ticks fed on each calf tested PCR-positive. The second experiment involved injection of normal calves with active cultures of the same E. chaffeensis strains. Interestingly, three of six calves inoculated with active cultures became recumbent and died or had to be euthanized. All of the surviving calves in this experiment tested PCR-positive on multiple dates, but fewer ticks fed on these calves were PCR-positive. These results suggest that a bovine disease model could facilitate the understanding of factors that affect the severity of HME.
Ehrlichia canis is the etiologic agent of canine monocytic ehrlichiosis (CME) and is a useful model for tick-borne zoonotic pathogens, many of which infect dogs. The purpose of this study was to evaluate rifampin and doxycycline regimens for clearance of E. canis infections in addition to alleviation of CME. Beagles were infected with E. canis by intravenous inoculation with carrier blood and treated with either rifampin or doxycycline after the acute phase of CME. Improved hematological values demonstrated that both treatments effectively relieved signs of the disease. Peripheral blood from all dogs became PCR-negative after antibiotic treatment, suggesting that these infections were eliminated and that rifampin is an effective alternative chemotherapeutic agent for treatment of CME.
Ehrlichia canis; Rhipicephalus sanguineus; ehrlichiosis; doxycycline; rifampin
The acquisition and transmission of rickettsial pathogens by different tick developmental stages has important epidemiological implications. The purpose of this study was to determine if male Rhipicephalus sanguineus can experimentally acquire and transmit Ehrlichia canis in the absence of female ticks. Two trials were performed where nymphal and male R. sanguineus were simultaneously acquisition fed on the same infected donor hosts, and transstadially or intrastadially exposed male ticks were fed on separate pathogen-free dogs as a test for transmission. A single-step p30-based PCR assay was used to test canine and tick hosts for E. canis infections before and after tick feeding. E. canis was detected after either intrastadial or transstadial passage in male ticks, the organism remained detectable in both tick groups after transmission feeding, and both tick groups transmitted the rickettsia to susceptible dogs. Infection of dogs via tick feeding resulted in milder clinical signs and lower antibody titers than intravenous inoculation of carrier blood, but further investigation is needed to understand the mechanisms responsible for this observation. These results demonstrate that male R. sanguineus can take multiple feedings, and that they can both acquire and transmit E. canis in the absence of female ticks. This tick development stage could be important in transmission of E. canis, and perhaps related pathogens, between vertebrate hosts under natural and experimental conditions.
Ehrlichia canis; Canine monocytic ehrlichiosis; Tick transmission; Rhipicephalus sanguineus; Metastriata
An immunocompetent animal disease model based on infection with Ehrlichia chaffeensis would facilitate research toward understanding mechanisms responsible for the broad range of clinical signs associated with human monocytic ehrlichiosis (HME). Adaptability to experimental feeding of various tick species and stages and to testing therapies comparable to those for human diseases are additional advantages of large animal models. Herein we summarize pathology reports for calves that developed fatal disease after experimental inoculation with E. chaffeensis. Elevated liver enzyme levels and lung pathology among these deceased calves corroborated earlier reports of severe HME. Thus, an experimental disease model based on infection of outbred immunocompetent hosts with E. chaffeensis could be within our grasp for the first time.
Ehrlichia chaffeensis; human monocytic ehrlichiosis; large animal disease model
Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Ehrlichia chaffeensis are obligatory intracellular α-proteobacteria that infect human leukocytes and cause potentially fatal emerging zoonoses. In the present study, we determined global protein expression profiles of these bacteria cultured in the human promyelocytic leukemia cell line, HL-60. Mass spectrometric (MS) analyses identified a total of 1,212 A. phagocytophilum and 1,021 E. chaffeensis proteins, representing 89.3 and 92.3% of the predicted bacterial proteomes, respectively. Nearly all bacterial proteins (≥99%) with known functions were expressed, whereas only approximately 80% of “hypothetical” proteins were detected in infected human cells. Quantitative MS/MS analyses indicated that highly expressed proteins in both bacteria included chaperones, enzymes involved in biosynthesis and metabolism, and outer membrane proteins, such as A. phagocytophilum P44 and E. chaffeensis P28/OMP-1. Among 113 A. phagocytophilum p44 paralogous genes, 110 of them were expressed and 88 of them were encoded by pseudogenes. In addition, bacterial infection of HL-60 cells up-regulated the expression of human proteins involved mostly in cytoskeleton components, vesicular trafficking, cell signaling, and energy metabolism, but down-regulated some pattern recognition receptors involved in innate immunity. Our proteomics data represent a comprehensive analysis of A. phagocytophilum and E. chaffeensis proteomes, and provide a quantitative view of human host protein expression profiles regulated by bacterial infection. The availability of these proteomic data will provide new insights into biology and pathogenesis of these obligatory intracellular pathogens.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Ehrlichia chaffeensis; proteomic analysis; human granulocytic anaplasmosis; human monocytic ehrlichiosis; human leukocytes
Ehrlichia chaffeensis and Anaplasma phagocytophilum are obligatory intracellular bacteria that preferentially replicate inside leukocytes by utilizing biological compounds and processes of these primary host defensive cells. These bacteria incorporate cholesterol from the host for their survival. Upon interaction with host monocytes and granulocytes, respectively, these bacteria usurp the lipid raft domain containing GPI-anchored protein to induce a series of signaling events that result in internalization of the bacteria. Monocytes and neutrophils usually kill invading microorganisms by fusion of the phagosomes containing the bacteria with granules containing both antimicrobial peptides and lysosomal hydrolytic enzymes and/or through sequestering vital nutrients. However, E. chaffeensis and A. phagocytophilum alter vesicular traffic to create a unique intracellular membrane-bound compartment that allows their replication in seclusion from lysosomal killing. These bacteria are quite sensitive to reactive oxygen species (ROS), so in order to survive in host cells that are primary mediators of ROS-induced killing, they inhibit activation of NADPH oxidase and assembly of this enzyme in their inclusion compartments. Moreover, host phagocyte activation and differentiation, apoptosis, and IFN-γ signaling pathways are inhibited by these bacteria. Through reductive evolution, lipopolysaccharide and peptidoglycan that activate the innate immune response, have been eliminated from these gram-negative bacteria at the genomic level. Upon interaction with new host cells, bacterial genes encoding the type IV secretion apparatus and the two-component regulatory system are upregulated to sense and adapt to the host environment. Thus dynamic signal transduction events concurrently proceed both in the host cells and in the invading E. chaffeensis and A. phagocytophilum bacteria for successful establishment of intracellular infection. Several bacterial surface exposed proteins and porins are recently identified. Further functional studies on Ehrlichia and Anaplasma effector or ligand molecules and cognate host cell receptors will undoubtedly advance our understanding of the complex interplay between obligatory intracellular pathogens and their hosts. Such data can be applied towards treatment, diagnosis, and control of ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis.
Ehrlichia; Anaplasma; cellular invasion; signaling
Cyclic di-GMP (c-di-GMP) is a bacterial second messenger produced by GGDEF domain-containing proteins. The genome of Ehrlichia chaffeensis, an obligatory intracellular bacterium that causes human monocytic ehrlichiosis, encodes a single protein that contains a GGDEF domain, called PleD. In this study, we investigated the effects of c-di-GMP signaling on E. chaffeensis infection of the human monocytic cell line THP-1. Recombinant E. chaffeensis PleD showed diguanylate cyclase activity as it generated c-di-GMP in vitro. Because c-di-GMP is not cell permeable, the c-di-GMP hydrophobic analog 2′-O-di(tert-butyldimethylsilyl)-c-di-GMP (CDGA) was used to examine intracellular c-di-GMP signaling. CDGA activity was first tested with Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium. CDGA inhibited well-defined c-di-GMP-regulated phenomena, including cellulose synthesis, clumping, and upregulation of csgD and adrA mRNA, indicating that CDGA acts as an antagonist in c-di-GMP signaling. [32P]c-di-GMP bound several E. chaffeensis native proteins and two E. chaffeensis recombinant I-site proteins, and this binding was blocked by CDGA. Although pretreatment of E. chaffeensis with CDGA did not reduce bacterial binding to THP-1 cells, bacterial internalization was reduced. CDGA facilitated protease-dependent degradation of particular, but not all, bacterial surface-exposed proteins, including TRP120, which is associated with bacterial internalization. Indeed, the serine protease HtrA was detected on the surface of E. chaffeensis, and TRP120 was degraded by treatment of E. chaffeensis with recombinant E. chaffeensis HtrA. Furthermore, anti-HtrA inhibited CDGA-induced TRP120 degradation. Our results suggest that E. chaffeensis invasion is regulated by c-di-GMP signaling, which stabilizes some bacterial surface-exposed proteins against proteases.
Neorickettsia risticii is the Gram-negative, obligate, and intracellular bacterial pathogen responsible for Potomac horse fever (PHF): an important acute systemic disease of horses. N. risticii surface proteins, critical for immune recognition, have not been thoroughly characterized. In this paper, we identified the 51-kDa antigen (P51) as a major surface-exposed outer membrane protein of older and contemporary strains of N. risticii through mass spectrometry of streptavidin-purified biotinylated surface-labeled proteins. Western blot analysis of sera from naturally-infected horses demonstrated universal and strong recognition of recombinant P51 over other Neorickettsia recombinant proteins. Comparisons of amino acid sequences for predicted secondary structures of P51, as well as Neorickettsia surface proteins 2 (Nsp2) and 3 (Nsp3) among N. risticii strains from horses with PHF during a 26-year period throughout the United States revealed that the majority of variations among strains were concentrated in regions predicted to be external loops of their β-barrel structures. Large insertions or deletions occurred within a tandem-repeat region in Ssa3. These data demonstrate patterns of geographical association for P51 and temporal associations for Nsp2, Nsp3, and Ssa3, indicating evolutionary trends for these Neorickettsia surface antigen genes. This study showed N. risticii surface protein population dynamics, providing groundwork for designing immunodiagnostic targets for PHF.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum, the causative agent of human granulocytic anaplasmosis, infects human neutrophils and inhibits mitochondria-mediated apoptosis. Bacterial factors involved in this process are unknown. In the present study, we screened a genomic DNA library of A. phagocytophilum for effectors of the type IV secretion system by a bacterial two-hybrid system, using A. phagocytophilum VirD4 as bait. A hypothetical protein was identified as a putative effector, hereby named Anaplasma translocated substrate 1 (Ats-1). Using triple immunofluorescence labeling and Western blot analysis of infected cells, including human neutrophils, we determined that Ats-1 is abundantly expressed by A. phagocytophilum, translocated across the inclusion membrane, localized in the host cell mitochondria, and cleaved. Ectopically expressed Ats-1 targeted mitochondria in an N-terminal 17 residue-dependent manner, localized in matrix or at the inner membrane, and was cleaved as native protein, which required residues 55–57. In vitro-translated Ats-1 was imported in a receptor-dependent manner into isolated mitochondria. Ats-1 inhibited etoposide-induced cytochrome c release from mitochondria, PARP cleavage, and apoptosis in mammalian cells, as well as Bax-induced yeast apoptosis. Ats-1(55–57) had significantly reduced anti-apoptotic activity. Bax redistribution was inhibited in both etoposide-induced and Bax-induced apoptosis by Ats-1. Taken together, Ats-1 is the first example of a bacterial protein that traverses five membranes and prevents apoptosis at the mitochondria.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is the pathogen that causes human granulocytic anaplasmosis, an emerging infectious disease. As an obligate intracellular organism, this bacterium cannot reproduce outside of eukaryotic cells due to the loss of many genes that are present in free-living bacteria. Paradoxically, it specifically infects short-lived white blood cells that play critical roles in anti-microbial defense, by subverting a number of host innate immune responses including programmed cell death (apoptosis). A. phagocytophilum factors that are involved in this process are largely unknown. In this study, we first searched A. phagocytophilum proteins that are secreted by its specialized secretion system into eukaryotic cells. We found a protein of unknown function, here named Ats-1, which is abundantly produced by A. phagocytophilum and traverses five membranes to enter the mitochondria of human cells. Our further study showed that Ats-1 reduces the sensitivity of mitochondria to respond to apoptosis-inducing factors, leading to the inhibition of host cell apoptosis. Thus, present findings identified a bacterial protein that allows infected white blood cells to live longer to support bacterial growth. The absence of similarity of the sequence or the mode of action to any other known cell death suppressor suggests that Ats-1 defines a previously undescribed class of anti-apoptotic protein. This protein and the mechanism thereof may provide insight regarding a new therapeutic target for treatment of human granulocytic anaplasmosis.
To determine whether Ehrlichia chaffeensis exists in Japan, we used PCR to examine blood from sika deer in Nara, Japan. Of 117 deer, 36 (31%) were infected with E. chaffeensis. The E. chaffeensis 16S rRNA base and GroEL amino acid sequences from Japan were most closely related to those of E. chaffeensis Arkansas.
Ehrlichia chaffeensis; sika deer; GroEL; 16S rRNA; bacteria; Japan; dispatch
Neorickettsia risticii is an obligate intracellular bacterium of the trematodes and mammals. Horses develop Potomac horse fever (PHF) when they ingest aquatic insects containing encysted N. risticii-infected trematodes. The complete genome sequence of N. risticii Illinois consists of a single circular chromosome of 879 977 bp and encodes 38 RNA species and 898 proteins. Although N. risticii has limited ability to synthesize amino acids and lacks many metabolic pathways, it is capable of making major vitamins, cofactors and nucleotides. Comparison with its closely related human pathogen N. sennetsu showed that 758 (88.2%) of protein-coding genes are conserved between N. risticii and N. sennetsu. Four-way comparison of genes among N. risticii and other Anaplasmataceae showed that most genes are either shared among Anaplasmataceae (525 orthologs that generally associated with housekeeping functions), or specific to each genome (>200 genes that are mostly hypothetical proteins). Genes potentially involved in the pathogenesis of N. risticii were identified, including those encoding putative outer membrane proteins, two-component systems and a type IV secretion system (T4SS). The bipolar localization of T4SS pilus protein VirB2 on the bacterial surface was demonstrated for the first time in obligate intracellular bacteria. These data provide insights toward genomic potential of N. risticii and intracellular parasitism, and facilitate our understanding of PHF pathogenesis.
The type IV secretion system is an important virulence factor in several host cell-associated pathogens, as it delivers various bacterial macromolecules to target eukaryotic cells. Genes homologous to several virB genes and virD4 of Agrobacterium tumefaciens are found in an intravacuolar pathogen Ehrlichia chaffeensis, the tick-borne causative agent of human monocytic ehrlichiosis. In particular, despite its small genome size, E. chaffeensis has four tandem virB6 paralogs (virB6-1, -2, -3, and -4) that are 3- to 10-fold larger than A. tumefaciens virB6. The present study for the first time illustrates the relevance of the larger quadruple VirB6 paralogs by demonstrating the protein expression and interaction in E. chaffeensis. All four virB6 paralogs were cotranscribed in THP-1 human leukemia and ISE6 tick cell cultures. The four VirB6 proteins and VirB9 were expressed by E. chaffeensis in THP-1 cells, and amounts of these five proteins were similar in isolated E. chaffeensis-containing vacuoles and vacuole-free E. chaffeensis. In addition, an 80-kDa fragment of VirB6-2 was detected, which was strikingly more prevalent in E. chaffeensis-containing vacuoles than in vacuole-free E. chaffeensis. Coimmunoprecipitation analysis revealed VirB9 interaction with VirB6-1 and VirB6-2; VirB6-4 interaction with VirB6-1, VirB6-2, and VirB6-3; and VirB6-2 80-kDa fragment interaction with VirB6-3 and VirB6-4. The interaction of VirB9 and VirB6-2 was confirmed by far-Western blotting. The results suggest that E. chaffeensis VirB9, the quadruple VirB6 proteins, and the VirB6-2 80-kDa fragment form a unique molecular subassembly to cooperate in type IV secretion.
Infection of humans with Ehrlichia chaffeensis, the etiologic agent of human monocytic ehrlichiosis, can cause hepatitis of various levels of severity. When the three human isolates of E. chaffeensis, each belonging to a different genogroup, are inoculated into severe combined immunodeficiency mice, the order of severity of clinical signs and bacterial burden detected in the liver is as follows (from greatest to least severity and highest to lowest burden): strain Wakulla, followed by strain Liberty, followed by strain Arkansas. In this article, we used microarray analysis to define transcriptional profiles characteristic of the histopathological features in the mouse liver. Cytokine and chemokine profiles and their receptor profiles were strikingly different among the three strains of E. chaffeensis: gamma interferon, CCL5, CXCL1, CXCL2, CXCL7, CXCL9, interleukin 2 receptor gamma (IL2Rγ), IL21R, CCR2, and CXCR6 were highly upregulated with strain Arkansas; and tumor necrosis factor (TNF), CCL2, CCL3, CCL5, CCL6, CCL12, CCL20, CXCL2, CXCL7, CXCL9, CXCL13, TNF receptor superfamily 9 (TNFRSF9), TNFRSF13β, IL1R2, IL2Rγ, IL20Rβ, IL21R, CCR1, CCR2, and CXCR4 were highly upregulated with strain Wakulla. With strain Liberty, only CXCL13 was highly upregulated, and IL13Rα2 was downregulated. In livers infected with the Arkansas strain, monocytes/macrophages and NK cells were enriched in the granulomas and an increase in NK cell marker mRNAs was detected. Livers infected with the Wakulla strain displayed infiltration of significantly more neutrophils and an increase in neutrophil marker mRNAs. Genes commonly upregulated in liver tissue infected with the three strains are other host innate immune and inflammatory response genes, including those encoding several acute-phase proteins. Genes downregulated commonly are related to host physiologic functions. The results suggest that marked modulation of host cytokine and chemokine profiles by E. chaffeensis strains underlies the distinct host liver disease.
In eukaryotes, intracellular cholesterol homeostasis and trafficking are tightly regulated. Certain bacteria, such as Anaplasma phagocytophilum, also require cholesterol; it is unknown, however, how this cholesterol-dependent obligatory intracellular bacterium of granulocytes interacts with the host cell cholesterol regulatory pathway to acquire cholesterol. Here, we report that total host cell cholesterol increased >2-fold during A. phagocytophilum infection in a human promyelocytic leukemia cell line. Cellular free cholesterol was enriched in A. phagocytophilum inclusions as detected by filipin staining. We determined that A. phagocytophilum requires cholesterol derived from low-density lipoprotein (LDL), because its replication was significantly inhibited by depleting the growth medium of cholesterol-containing lipoproteins, by blocking LDL uptake with a monoclonal antibody against LDL receptor (LDLR), or by treating the host cells with inhibitors that block LDL-derived cholesterol egress from late endosomes or lysosomes. However, de novo cholesterol biosynthesis is not required, since inhibition of the biosynthesis pathway did not inhibit A. phagocytophilum infection. The uptake of fluorescence-labeled LDL was enhanced in infected cells, and LDLR expression was up-regulated at both the mRNA and protein levels. A. phagocytophilum infection stabilized LDLR mRNA through the 3′ UTR region, but not through activation of the sterol regulatory element binding proteins. Extracellular signal–regulated kinase (ERK) was up-regulated by A. phagocytophilum infection, and inhibition of its upstream kinase, MEK, by a specific inhibitor or siRNA knockdown, reduced A. phagocytophilum infection. Up-regulation of LDLR mRNA by A. phagocytophilum was also inhibited by the MEK inhibitor; however, it was unclear whether ERK activation is required for LDLR mRNA up-regulation by A. phagocytophilum. These data reveal that A. phagocytophilum exploits the host LDL uptake pathway and LDLR mRNA regulatory system to accumulate cholesterol in inclusions to facilitate its replication.
Maintenance of the cholesterol amount and transport within cells are essential for healthy human cell functions. Most bacteria do not need cholesterol, but certain bacteria that infect human cells are dependent on host cell cholesterol for their infection. How infected human cells deal with these cholesterol-robbing bacteria, and in turn how these bacteria hijack host cholesterol, are intriguing questions. Anaplasma phagocytophilum is a bacterium that lives inside white blood cells, and causes the disease human granulocytic anaplasmosis (HGA). A. phagocytophilum needs host cholesterol to live. Here, we discovered that A. phagocytophilum infection increases the amount of cholesterol in host cells and sequesters the majority of cholesterol in A. phagocytophilum inclusions inside host cells. Human cells acquire cholesterol from two sources: receptor-mediated endocytosis of cholesterol-containing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) from the circulating blood, and synthesis of cholesterol inside the cells. Since A. phagocytophilum depends on cholesterol derived from LDL, it coaxes the host cell to take up more LDL by increasing LDL receptor, through inhibition of LDL receptor mRNA degradation. A. phagocytophilum infection may serve as a model to improve our understanding of the cellular cholesterol regulation in white blood cells, and may provide insight regarding new therapeutic target for treatment of HGA.
Ehrlichia chaffeensis is an obligately intracellular gram-negative bacterium and is the etiologic agent of human monocytic ehrlichiosis (HME). Although E. chaffeensis induces the generation of several cytokines and chemokines by leukocytes, E. chaffeensis lacks lipopolysaccharide and peptidoglycan. Bioinfomatic analysis of the E. chaffeensis genome, however, predicted genes encoding 15 lipoproteins and 3 posttranslational lipoprotein-processing enzymes. The present study showed that by use of multidimensional liquid chromatography followed by tandem mass spectrometry, all predicted lipoproteins as well as lipoprotein-processing enzymes were expressed by E. chaffeensis cultured in the human promyelocytic leukemia cell line HL-60. Consistent with this observation, a signal peptidase II inhibitor, globomycin, was found to inhibit E. chaffeensis infection and lipoprotein processing in HL-60 cell culture. To study in vivo E. chaffeensis lipoprotein expression and host immune responses to E. chaffeensis lipoproteins, 13 E. chaffeensis lipoprotein genes were cloned into a mammalian expression vector. When the DNA constructs were inoculated into naïve dogs, or when dogs were infected with E. chaffeensis, the animals developed delayed-type hypersensitivity reactions at cutaneous sites of the DNA construct deposition and serum antibodies to these lipoproteins. This is the first demonstration of lipoprotein expression and elicitation of immune responses by a member of the order Rickettsiales. Multiple lipoproteins expressed by E. chaffeensis in vitro and in vivo may play key roles in pathogenesis and immune responses in HME.