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1.  Loss of FADS2 Function Severely Impairs the Use of HeLa Cells as an In Vitro Model for Host Response Studies Involving Fatty Acid Effects 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e115610.
Established epithelial cell lines equipped with pattern recognition receptors such as the Toll-like receptor (TLR)-2 are common tools for immune response studies on invading pathogens, e.g. the obligate intracellular species of Chlamydia. Moreover, such models are widely used to elucidate fatty acid-mediated immune effects. In several transformed cell lines, however, unusual loss of metabolic functions was described. The cell lines A549 and HeLa are poorly characterized in this respect. Therefore, we comparatively assessed the metabolic capacity of A549 and HeLa prior to proposed application as in vitro model for fatty acid effects on chlamydial infection.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We incubated both cell lines either with substrates (C18∶2n−6 or C18∶3n−3) or products (C18∶3n−6, C18∶4n−3) of fatty acid desaturase-2 (FADS2), and analysed the fatty acid profiles after 24 h and 72 h by gas chromatography. Based on these data, we suspected that the complete discontinuation of normal biosynthesis of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFA) in HeLa was due to loss of FADS2 function. Consequently, prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) formation was less inducible by TLR2 stimulation in HeLa, likely as a result of not only insufficient supply of precursors but also weak cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) response. In accordance, Chlamydia infection rates were consistently lower in HeLa than in A549. Sequence analysis revealed no alteration within the FADS2 gene in HeLa. The FADS2 expression level, however, was significantly lower and, in contrast to A549, not regulated by C18∶2n−6. A549 exhibited regular fatty acid metabolism and enzyme functionality.
Our data show that HeLa cells considerably differ from A549 at several stages of fatty acid metabolism. The poor metabolic potential of HeLa, mainly concerning FADS2 upstream of COX-2 function, calls into question whether these cells represent a good model to unveil fatty acid or downstream eicosanoid effects in the course of intracellular bacterial infection.
PMCID: PMC4280191  PMID: 25549244
2.  Host Adaptation of Chlamydia pecorum towards Low Virulence Evident in Co-Evolution of the ompA, incA, and ORF663 Loci 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e103615.
Chlamydia (C.) pecorum, an obligate intracellular bacterium, may cause severe diseases in ruminants, swine and koalas, although asymptomatic infections are the norm. Recently, we identified genetic polymorphisms in the ompA, incA and ORF663 genes that potentially differentiate between high-virulence C. pecorum isolates from diseased animals and low-virulence isolates from asymptomatic animals. Here, we expand these findings by including additional ruminant, swine, and koala strains. Coding tandem repeats (CTRs) at the incA locus encoded a variable number of repeats of APA or AGA amino acid motifs. Addition of any non-APA/AGA repeat motif, such as APEVPA, APAVPA, APE, or APAPE, associated with low virulence (P<10−4), as did a high number of amino acids in all incA CTRs (P = 0.0028). In ORF663, high numbers of 15-mer CTRs correlated with low virulence (P = 0.0001). Correction for ompA phylogram position in ORF663 and incA abolished the correlation between genetic changes and virulence, demonstrating co-evolution of ompA, incA, and ORF663 towards low virulence. Pairwise divergence of ompA, incA, and ORF663 among isolates from healthy animals was significantly higher than among strains isolated from diseased animals (P≤10−5), confirming the longer evolutionary path traversed by low-virulence strains. All three markers combined identified 43 unique strains and 4 pairs of identical strains among all 57 isolates tested, demonstrating the suitability of these markers for epidemiological investigations.
PMCID: PMC4118914  PMID: 25084532
3.  Performance of seven serological assays for diagnosing tularemia 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2014;14:234.
Tularemia is a rare zoonotic disease caused by the Gram-negative bacterium Francisella tularensis. Serology is frequently the preferred diagnostic approach, because the pathogen is highly infectious and difficult to cultivate. The aim of this retrospective study was to determine the diagnostic accuracy of tularemia specific tests.
The Serazym®Anti-Francisella tularensis ELISA, Serion ELISA classic Francisella tularensis IgG/IgM, an in-house ELISA, the VIRapid® Tularemia immunochromatographic test, an in-house antigen microarray, and a Western Blot (WB) assay were evaluated. The diagnosis tularemia was established using a standard micro-agglutination assay. In total, 135 sera from a series of 110 consecutive tularemia patients were tested.
The diagnostic sensitivity and diagnostic specificity of the tests were VIRapid (97.0% and 84.0%), Serion IgG (96.3% and 96.8%), Serion IgM (94.8% and 96.8%), Serazym (97.0% and 91.5%), in-house ELISA (95.6% and 76.6%), WB (93.3% and 83.0%), microarray (91.1% and 97.9%).
The diagnostic value of the commercial assays was proven, because the diagnostic accuracy was >90%. The diagnostic sensitivity of the in-house ELISA and the WB were acceptable, but the diagnostic accuracy was <90%. Interestingly, the antigen microarray test was very specific and had a very good positive predictive value.
PMCID: PMC4021340  PMID: 24885274
Serology; Tularemia; Diagnostic sensitivity; Diagnostic specificity
4.  Zoonotic Chlamydiaceae Species Associated with Trachoma, Nepal 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2013;19(12):1948-1955.
Trachoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness. Commercial assays do not discriminate among all Chlamydiaceae species that might be involved in trachoma. We investigated whether a commercial Micro-ArrayTube could discriminate Chlamydiaceae species in DNA extracted directly from conjunctival samples from 101 trachoma patients in Nepal. To evaluate organism viability, we extracted RNA, reverse transcribed it, and subjected it to quantitative real-time PCR. We found that 71 (70.3%) villagers were infected. ArrayTube sensitivity was 91.7% and specificity was 100% compared with that of real-time PCR. Concordance between genotypes detected by microarray and ompA genotyping was 100%. Species distribution included 54 (76%) single infections with Chlamydia trachomatis, C. psittaci, C. suis, or C. pecorum, and 17 (24%) mixed infections that includied C. pneumoniae. Ocular infections were caused by 5 Chlamydiaceae species. Additional studies of trachoma pathogenesis involving Chlamydiaceae species other than C. trachomatis and their zoonotic origins are needed.
PMCID: PMC3840858  PMID: 24274654
Chlamydiaceae; zoonotic transmission; microarray; species and strain typing; zoonoses; Nepal; trachoma; bacteria
5.  Profiling Antibody Responses to Infections by Chlamydia abortus Enables Identification of Potential Virulence Factors and Candidates for Serodiagnosis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80310.
Enzootic abortion of ewes (EAE) due to infection with the obligate intracellular pathogen Chlamydia (C.) abortus is an important zoonosis leading to considerable economic loss to agriculture worldwide. The pathogen can be transmitted to humans and may lead to serious infection in pregnant women. Knowledge about epidemiology, clinical course and transmission to humans is hampered by the lack of reliable diagnostic tools. Immunoreactive proteins, which are expressed in infected animals and humans, may serve as novel candidates for diagnostic marker proteins and represent putative virulence factors. In order to broaden the spectrum of immunogenic C. abortus proteins we applied 2D immunoblot analysis and screening of an expression library using human and animal sera. We have identified 48 immunoreactive proteins representing potential diagnostic markers and also putative virulence factors, such as CAB080 (homologue of the “macrophage infectivity potentiator”, MIP), CAB167 (homologue of the “translocated actin recruitment protein”, TARP), CAB712 (homologue of the “chlamydial protease-like activity factor”, CPAF), CAB776 (homologue of the “Polymorphic membrane protein D”, PmpD), and the “hypothetical proteins” CAB063, CAB408 and CAB821, which are predicted to be type III secreted. We selected two putative virulence factors for further characterization, i.e. CAB080 (cMIP) and CAB063, and studied their expression profiles at transcript and protein levels. Analysis of the subcellular localization of both proteins throughout the developmental cycle revealed CAB063 being the first C. abortus protein shown to be translocated to the host cell nucleus.
PMCID: PMC3829881  PMID: 24260366
6.  Isolation of a New Chlamydia species from the Feral Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus): Chlamydia ibidis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e74823.
Investigations conducted on feral African Sacred Ibises (Threskiornisaethiopicus) in western France led to the isolation of a strain with chlamydial genetic determinants. Ultrastructural analysis, comparative sequence analysis of the 16S rRNA gene, ompA, and of a concatenate of 31 highly conserved genes, as well as determination of the whole genome sequence confirmed the relatedness of the new isolate to members of the Chlamydiaceae, while, at the same time demonstrating a unique position outside the currently recognized species of this family. We propose to name this new chlamydial species Chlamydiaibidis.
PMCID: PMC3779242  PMID: 24073223
7.  Infection, Disease, and Transmission Dynamics in Calves after Experimental and Natural Challenge with a Bovine Chlamydia psittaci Isolate 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64066.
Chlamydia (C.) psittaci is the causative agent of psittacosis, a zoonotic disease in birds and man. In addition, C. psittaci has been repeatedly found in domestic animals and is, at least in calves, also able to induce respiratory disease. Knowledge about transmission routes in cattle herds is still deficient, and nothing is known about differences in host response after either experimental or natural exposure to C. psittaci. Therefore, our recently developed respiratory infection model was exploited to evaluate (i) the presence of the pathogen in blood, excretions and air, (ii) the possibility of transmission and (iii) clinical symptoms, acute phase and immune response until 5 weeks after exposure. In this prospective study, intrabronchial inoculation of 108 inclusion-forming units of C. psittaci (n = 21 calves) led to reproducible acute respiratory illness (of approximately one week), accompanied by a systemic inflammatory reaction with an innate immune response dominated by neutrophils. Excretion and/or exhalation of the pathogen was sufficient to transmit the infection to naïve sentinel calves (n = 3) co-housed with the infected animals. Sentinel calves developed mild to subclinical infections only. Notably, excretion of the pathogen, predominantly via feces, occurred more frequently in animals naturally exposed to C. psittaci (i.e. sentinels) as compared to experimentally-inoculated calves. The humoral immune response was generally weak, and did not emerge regularly following experimental infection; however, it was largely absent after naturally acquired infection.
PMCID: PMC3653844  PMID: 23691148
8.  A Real-Time PCR Assay for the Detection of Atypical Strains of Chlamydiaceae from Pigeons 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e58741.
Recent evidence of the occurrence of atypical Chlamydiaceae strains in pigeons, different from the established Chlamydiaceae, requires the development of a specific and rapid detection tool to investigate their prevalence and significance. Here is described a new real-time PCR assay that allows specific detection of atypical Chlamydiaceae from pigeons. The assay has been used to assess the dissemination of these strains in field samples collected from Parisian pigeon populations in 2009. The results suggest a limited dissemination compared to the usually higher prevalence of Chlamydia psittaci that is the main species associated with avian chlamydiosis.
PMCID: PMC3597529  PMID: 23516548
9.  Distinct Intensity of Host-Pathogen Interactions in Chlamydia psittaci- and Chlamydia abortus-Infected Chicken Embryos 
Infection and Immunity  2012;80(9):2976-2988.
Factors and mechanisms determining the differences in virulence and host specificity between the zoonotic agents Chlamydia psittaci and Chlamydia abortus are still largely unknown. In the present study, two strains were compared for their invasiveness, virulence, and capability of eliciting an immune response in chicken embryos. On breeding day 10, embryonated chicken eggs were inoculated with 5 × 104 inclusion-forming units. As shown by immunohistochemistry and quantitative real-time PCR, C. psittaci displayed a significantly better capability of disseminating in the chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) and internal organs than C. abortus. The higher infectious potential of C. psittaci in birds was underlined by significantly higher mRNA expression rates of essential chlamydial genes, such as incA, groEL (in CAM, liver, and spleen), cpaf, and ftsW (in CAM). Although the immune responses to both pathogens were similar, C. psittaci elicited higher macrophage numbers and a stronger expression of a subset of immune-related proteins. The data imply that invasiveness of Chlamydia spp. and propagation in the host are not solely dependent on the level of host immune response but, even to a greater extent, on the expression of bacterial factors related to virulence. The fact that C. psittaci has coped far better than C. abortus with the avian embryo's response by upregulating essential genes may be a key to understanding the mechanisms underlying host adaptation and etiopathology.
PMCID: PMC3418749  PMID: 22689815
10.  Genome Sequence of Chlamydia psittaci Strain 01DC12 Originating from Swine 
Genome Announcements  2013;1(1):e00078-12.
Chlamydia psittaci is the etiological agent of psittacosis and is a zoonotic pathogen infecting birds and a variety of mammalian hosts. Here we report the genome sequence of the porcine strain 01DC12 which is representative of a novel clade of C. psittaci belonging to ompA genotype E.
PMCID: PMC3569293  PMID: 23405306
11.  Rapid Spoligotyping of Mycobacterium tuberculosis Complex Bacteria by Use of a Microarray System with Automatic Data Processing and Assignment 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2012;50(7):2492-2495.
Membrane-based spoligotyping has been converted to DNA microarray format to qualify it for high-throughput testing. We have shown the assay's validity and suitability for direct typing from tissue and detecting new spoligotypes. Advantages of the microarray methodology include rapidity, ease of operation, automatic data processing, and affordability.
PMCID: PMC3405571  PMID: 22553239
12.  Unity in Variety—The Pan-Genome of the Chlamydiae 
Molecular Biology and Evolution  2011;28(12):3253-3270.
Chlamydiae are evolutionarily well-separated bacteria that live exclusively within eukaryotic host cells. They include important human pathogens such as Chlamydia trachomatis as well as symbionts of protozoa. As these bacteria are experimentally challenging and genetically intractable, our knowledge about them is still limited. In this study, we obtained the genome sequences of Simkania negevensis Z, Waddlia chondrophila 2032/99, and Parachlamydia acanthamoebae UV-7. This enabled us to perform the first comprehensive comparative and phylogenomic analysis of representative members of four major families of the Chlamydiae, including the Chlamydiaceae. We identified a surprisingly large core gene set present in all genomes and a high number of diverse accessory genes in those Chlamydiae that do not primarily infect humans or animals, including a chemosensory system in P. acanthamoebae and a type IV secretion system. In S. negevensis, the type IV secretion system is encoded on a large conjugative plasmid (pSn, 132 kb). Phylogenetic analyses suggested that a plasmid similar to the S. negevensis plasmid was originally acquired by the last common ancestor of all four families and that it was subsequently reduced, integrated into the chromosome, or lost during diversification, ultimately giving rise to the extant virulence-associated plasmid of pathogenic chlamydiae. Other virulence factors, including a type III secretion system, are conserved among the Chlamydiae to variable degrees and together with differences in the composition of the cell wall reflect adaptation to different host cells including convergent evolution among the four chlamydial families. Phylogenomic analysis focusing on chlamydial proteins with homology to plant proteins provided evidence for the acquisition of 53 chlamydial genes by a plant progenitor, lending further support for the hypothesis of an early interaction between a chlamydial ancestor and the primary photosynthetic eukaryote.
PMCID: PMC3247790  PMID: 21690563
bacterial pathogens; sexually transmitted disease; symbiosis; intracellular bacteria; protozoa; pathogen–host interaction
13.  A New Role of the Complement System: C3 Provides Protection in a Mouse Model of Lung Infection with Intracellular Chlamydia psittaci 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e50327.
The complement system modulates the intensity of innate and specific immunity. While it protects against infections by extracellular bacteria its role in infection with obligate intracellular bacteria, such as the avian and human pathogen Chlamydia (C.) psittaci, is still unknown. In the present study, knockout mice lacking C3 and thus all main complement effector functions were intranasally infected with C. psittaci strain DC15. Clinical parameters, lung histology, and cytokine levels were determined. A subset of infections was additionally performed with mice lacking C5 or C5a receptors. Complement activation occurred before symptoms of pneumonia appeared. Mice lacking C3 were ∼100 times more susceptible to the intracellular bacteria compared to wild-type mice, with all C3−/− mice succumbing to infection after day 9. At a low infective dose, C3−/− mice became severely ill after an even longer delay, the kinetics suggesting a so far unknown link of complement to the adaptive, protective immune response against chlamydiae. The lethal phenotype of C3−/− mice is not based on differences in the anti-chlamydial IgG response (which is slightly delayed) as demonstrated by serum transfer experiments. In addition, during the first week of infection, the absence of C3 was associated with partial protection characterized by reduced weight loss, better clinical score and lower bacterial burden, which might be explained by a different mechanism. Lack of complement functions downstream of C5 had little effect. This study demonstrates for the first time a strong and complex influence of complement effector functions, downstream of C3 and upstream of C5, on the outcome of an infection with intracellular bacteria, such as C. psittaci.
PMCID: PMC3506576  PMID: 23189195
14.  A Novel Rapid DNA Microarray Assay Enables Identification of 37 Mycoplasma Species and Highlights Multiple Mycoplasma Infections 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33237.
Mycoplasmas comprise a conglomerate of pathogens and commensals occurring in humans and animals. The genus Mycoplasma alone contains more than 120 species at present, and new members are continuously being discovered. Therefore, it seems promising to use a single highly parallel detection assay rather than develop separate tests for each individual species. In this study, we have designed a DNA microarray carrying 70 oligonucleotide probes derived from the 23S rRNA gene and 86 probes from the tuf gene target regions. Following a PCR amplification and biotinylation step, hybridization on the array was shown to specifically identify 31 Mycoplasma spp., as well as 3 Acholeplasma spp. and 3 Ureaplasma spp. Members of the Mycoplasma mycoides cluster can be recognized at subgroup level. This procedure enables parallel detection of Mollicutes spp. occurring in humans, animals or cell culture, from mono- and multiple infections, in a single run. The main advantages of the microarray assay include ease of operation, rapidity, high information content, and affordability. The new test's analytical sensitivity is equivalent to that of real-time PCR and allows examination of field samples without the need for culture. When 60 field samples from ruminants and birds previously analyzed by denaturing-gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) were tested by the microarray assay both tests identified the same agent in 98.3% of the cases. Notably, microarray testing revealed an unexpectedly high proportion (35%) of multiple mycoplasma infections, i.e., substantially more than DGGE (15%). Two of the samples were found to contain four different Mycoplasma spp. This phenomenon deserves more attention, particularly its implications for epidemiology and treatment.
PMCID: PMC3315567  PMID: 22479374
15.  Complete Genome Sequences of Four Mammalian Isolates of Chlamydophila psittaci▿ 
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(16):4258.
Chlamydia psittaci is an obligate intracellular zoonotic pathogen primarily of birds, but it is also known to infect a variety of mammalian species. Here we report the genomes of four strains isolated from sheep (C19/98), pigs (01DC11), cattle (02DC15), and humans (08DC60).
PMCID: PMC3147682  PMID: 21705611
16.  High-Resolution Genotyping of Chlamydia trachomatis by Use of a Novel Multilocus Typing DNA Microarray ▿ †  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2011;49(8):2838-2843.
Typing of Chlamydia trachomatis is important to understanding its epidemiology. Currently used methods such as DNA sequencing of the ompA gene and multilocus sequence typing (MLST) either offer limited epidemiological resolution or are laborious and expensive, or both. DNA microarray technology using the ArrayStrip format is an affordable alternative for genotyping. In this study, we developed a new multilocus typing (MLT) DNA microarray, based on the target regions of a high-resolution MLST system as well as software for easy analysis. Validation of the array was done by typing 80 previously MLST-typed clinical specimens from unselected adolescents in school. The MLT array showed 100% specificity and provided 2.4-times-higher resolution than ompA sequencing, separating the commonly predominating ompA E/Bour genotype into 7 MLT array genotypes. The MLT array reproduced epidemiological findings revealed by the MLST system and showed sufficient sensitivity to work with clinical specimens. Compared to MLST analysis, the expenses needed for testing a sample with the MLT array are considerably lower. Moreover, testing can be completed within 1 working day rather than 3 or 4 days, with data analysis not requiring highly specialized personnel. The present MLT array represents a powerful alternative in C. trachomatis genotyping.
PMCID: PMC3147737  PMID: 21697318
17.  A Bovine Model of Respiratory Chlamydia psittaci Infection: Challenge Dose Titration 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e30125.
This study aimed to establish and evaluate a bovine respiratory model of experimentally induced acute C. psittaci infection. Calves are natural hosts and pathogenesis may resemble the situation in humans. Intrabronchial inoculation of C. psittaci strain DC15 was performed in calves aged 2–3 months via bronchoscope at four different challenge doses from 106 to 109 inclusion-forming units (ifu) per animal. Control groups received either UV-inactivated C. psittaci or cell culture medium. While 106 ifu/calf resulted in a mild respiratory infection only, the doses of 107 and 108 induced fever, tachypnea, dry cough, and tachycardia that became apparent 2–3 days post inoculation (dpi) and lasted for about one week. In calves exposed to 109 ifu C. psittaci, the respiratory disease was accompanied by severe systemic illness (apathy, tremor, markedly reduced appetite). At the time point of most pronounced clinical signs (3 dpi) the extent of lung lesions was below 10% of pulmonary tissue in calves inoculated with 106 and 107 ifu, about 15% in calves inoculated with 108 and more than 30% in calves inoculated with 109 ifu C. psittaci. Beside clinical signs and pathologic lesions, the bacterial load of lung tissue and markers of pulmonary inflammation (i.e., cell counts, concentration of proteins and eicosanoids in broncho-alveolar lavage fluid) were positively associated with ifu of viable C. psittaci. While any effect of endotoxin has been ruled out, all effects could be attributed to infection by the replicating bacteria. In conclusion, the calf represents a suitable model of respiratory chlamydial infection. Dose titration revealed that both clinically latent and clinically manifest infection can be reproduced experimentally by either 106 or 108 ifu/calf of C. psittaci DC15 while doses above 108 ifu C. psittaci cannot be recommended for further studies for ethical reasons. This defined model of different clinical expressions of chlamydial infection allows studying host-pathogen interactions.
PMCID: PMC3267716  PMID: 22299031
18.  Serological testing of cattle experimentally infected with Mycoplasma mycoides subsp. mycoides Small Colony using four different tests reveals a variety of seroconversion patterns 
To study the specific antibody response to infection with Mycoplasma mycoides subsp. mycoides Small Colony (MmmSC), the agent of Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP), we examined three panels of sera collected during three experimental infection trials in African cattle. The methods used included an in-house complement fixation test (CFT), a commercially available CFT, a competitive antibody ELISA (cELISA) and the immunoblotting test (IBT). In addition, lung tissue samples were examined by culture.
A total of 89% (51/59) of all experimentally infected animals tested positive on at least one of the serological tests throughout the trial. The specific antibody titres to the MmmSC infection became positive first by CFT (6 to 9 days post infection [dpi]), followed by IBT (9 to 13 dpi) and cELISA (13 to 16 dpi). Individual animals were found to display remarkably distinct seroconversion patterns, which allowed their classification into i) early high responders, ii) late high responders, and iii) low responders. In accordance with other studies, none of the present serological tests was capable of detecting all CBPP infected animals.
Comparison of the assays' performance in terms of sensitivity and specificity raises serious questions as to their reliability for identification of infected individuals in the field. In view of these limitations, a combination of CFT and cELISA can markedly improve CBPP diagnosis at single-animal level.
PMCID: PMC3377920  PMID: 22098816
19.  Full-Length De Novo Sequence of the Chlamydophila psittaci Type Strain, 6BC ▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(10):2662-2663.
Chlamydophila psittaci is an obligate intracellular zoonotic pathogen, mainly of birds. It is the causative agent of psittacosis in birds and humans. Here we report the full-length de novo genome sequence of the avian isolate 6BC, the type strain of the species C. psittaci.
PMCID: PMC3133153  PMID: 21441521
20.  High frequency of chlamydial co-infections in clinically healthy sheep flocks 
The epidemiological situation of ovine chlamydial infections in continental Europe, especially Germany is poorly characterised. Using the German state of Thuringia as a model example, the chlamydial sero- and antigen prevalence was estimated in thirty-two randomly selected sheep flocks with an average abortion rate lower than 1%. Seven vaccinated flocks were reviewed separately.
A wide range of samples from 32 flocks were examined. Assumption of a seroprevalence of 10% (CI 95%) at flock level, revealed that 94% of the tested flocks were serologically positive with ongoing infection (i.e. animals with seroconversion) in nearly half (47%) of the flocks. On the basis of an estimated 25% antigen prevalence (CI 95%), PCR and DNA microarray testing, together with sequencing revealed the presence of chlamydiae in 78% of the flocks. The species most frequently found was Chlamydophila (C.) abortus (50%) followed by C. pecorum (47%) and C. psittaci genotype A (25%). Mixed infections occurred in 25% of the tested flocks. Samples obtained from the vaccinated flocks revealed the presence of C. abortus field samples in 4/7 flocks. C. pecorum was isolated from 2/7 flocks and the presence of seroconversion was determined in 3/7 flocks.
The results imply that chlamydial infections occur frequently in German sheep flocks, even in the absence of elevated abortion rates. The fact that C. pecorum and the potentially zoonotic C. psittaci were found alongside the classical abortifacient agent C. abortus, raise questions about the significance of this reservoir for animal and human health and underline the necessity for regular monitoring. Further studies are needed to identify the possible role of C. psittaci infections in sheep.
PMCID: PMC3125319  PMID: 21679409
21.  Functional Interaction between Type III-Secreted Protein IncA of Chlamydophila psittaci and Human G3BP1 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(1):e16692.
Chlamydophila (Cp.) psittaci, the causative agent of psittacosis in birds and humans, is the most important zoonotic pathogen of the family Chlamydiaceae. These obligate intracellular bacteria are distinguished by a unique biphasic developmental cycle, which includes proliferation in a membrane-bound compartment termed inclusion. All Chlamydiaceae spp. possess a coding capacity for core components of a Type III secretion apparatus, which mediates specific delivery of anti-host effector proteins either into the chlamydial inclusion membrane or into the cytoplasm of target eukaryotic cells. Here we describe the interaction between Type III-secreted protein IncA of Cp. psittaci and host protein G3BP1 in a yeast two-hybrid system. In GST-pull down and co-immunoprecipitation experiments both in vitro and in vivo interaction between full-length IncA and G3BP1 were shown. Using fluorescence microscopy, the localization of G3BP1 near the inclusion membrane of Cp. psittaci-infected Hep-2 cells was demonstrated. Notably, infection of Hep-2 cells with Cp. psittaci and overexpression of IncA in HEK293 cells led to a decrease in c-Myc protein concentration. This effect could be ascribed to the interaction between IncA and G3BP1 since overexpression of an IncA mutant construct disabled to interact with G3BP1 failed to reduce c-Myc concentration. We hypothesize that lowering the host cell c-Myc protein concentration may be part of a strategy employed by Cp. psittaci to avoid apoptosis and scale down host cell proliferation.
PMCID: PMC3031633  PMID: 21304914
22.  Genotyping of Chlamydophila psittaci using a new DNA microarray assay based on sequence analysis of ompA genes 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:63.
The currently used genotyping system for the avian zoonotic pathogen Chlamydophila (C.) psittaci has evolved from serology and is based on ompA sequence variations. It includes seven avian and two non-avian genotypes. Restriction enzyme cleavage of the amplified ompA gene and, less frequently, ompA sequencing are being used for examination, but, beside methodological limitations, an increasing number of recently tested strains could not be assigned to any established genotype.
Comprehensive analysis of all available ompA gene sequences has revealed a remarkable genetic diversity within the species C. psittaci, which is only partially covered by the present genotyping scheme. We suggest adjustments and extensions to the present scheme, which include the introduction of subgroups to the more heterogeneous genotypes A, E/B and D, as well as six provisional genotypes representing so far untypable strains. The findings of sequence analysis have been incorporated in the design of a new DNA microarray. The ArrayTube™ microarray-based ompA genotyping assay has been shown to discriminate among established genotypes and identify so far untyped strains. Its high specificity, which allows detection of single-nucleotide polymorphisms, is due to the parallel approach consisting in the use of 35 hybridization probes derived from variable domains 2 and 4 of the ompA gene.
The traditional genotyping system does not adequately reflect the extent of intra-species heterogeneity in ompA sequences of C. psittaci. The newly developed DNA microarray-based assay represents a promising diagnostic tool for tracing epidemiological chains, exploring the dissemination of genotypes and identifying non-typical representatives of C. psittaci.
PMCID: PMC2362127  PMID: 18419800
23.  Chicken Cecum Immune Response to Salmonella enterica Serovars of Different Levels of Invasiveness▿  
Infection and Immunity  2007;75(12):5993-6007.
Day-old chicks are very susceptible to infections with Salmonella enterica subspecies. The gut mucosa is the initial site of host invasion and provides the first line of defense against the bacteria. To study the potential of different S. enterica serovars to invade the gut mucosa and trigger an immune response, day-old chicks were infected orally with Salmonella enterica serovar Enteritidis, S. enterica serovar Typhimurium, S. enterica serovar Hadar, or S. enterica serovar Infantis, respectively. The localization of Salmonella organisms in gut mucosa and the number of immune cells in cecum were determined by immunohistochemistry in the period between 4 h and 9 days after infection. Using quantitative real-time reverse transcription (RT)-PCR, mRNA expression of various cytokines, chemokines, and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) was examined in cecum. As a result, all S. enterica serovars were able to infect epithelial cells and the lamina propria. Notably, serovar Enteritidis showed the highest invasiveness of lamina propria tissue, whereas serovars Typhimurium and Hadar displayed moderate invasiveness and serovar Infantis hardly any invasion capabilities. Only a limited number of bacteria of all serovars were found within intestinal macrophages. Elevated numbers of granulocytes, CD8+ cells, and TCR1+ cells and mRNA expression rates for interleukin 12 (IL-12), IL-18, tumor necrosis factor alpha factor, and iNOS in cecum correlated well with the invasiveness of serovars in the lamina propria. In contrast, changes in numbers of TCR2+ and CD4+ cells and IL-2 mRNA expression seemed to be more dependent on infection of epithelial cells. The data indicate that the capability of Salmonella serovars to enter the cecal mucosa and invade lower regions affects both the level and character of the immune response in tissue.
PMCID: PMC2168364  PMID: 17709416
24.  Chlamydophila spp. infection in horses with recurrent airway obstruction: similarities to human chronic obstructive disease 
Respiratory Research  2008;9(1):14.
Recurrent airway obstruction (RAO) in horses is a naturally occurring dust-induced disease mainly characterized by bronchiolitis which shows histological and pathophysiological similarities to human chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In human COPD previous investigations indicated an association with Chlamydophila psittaci infection. The present study was designed (1) to clarify a possible role of this infectious agent in RAO and (2) to investigate the suitability of this equine disorder as a model for human COPD.
Clinico-pathological parameters of a total of 45 horses (25 horses with clinical signs of RAO and 20 clinically healthy controls) were compared to histological findings in lung tissue samples and infection by Chlamydiaceae using light microscopy, immunohistochemistry, and PCR.
Horses with clinical signs of RAO vs. controls revealed more inflammatory changes in histology (p = 0.01), and a higher detection rate of Chlamydia psittaci antigens in all cells (p < 0.001) and bronchiolar epithelial cells alone (p < 0.001) by immunohistochemistry. The abundance of chlamydial inclusions increased with the severity of disease. PCR was positive in 60% of horses with RAO vs. 45% of the controls (p = 0.316). OmpA sequencing identified Chlamydophila psittaci (n = 9) and Chlamydophila abortus (n = 13) in both groups with no significant differences. Within the group of clinically healthy horses subgroups with no changes (n = 15) and slight inflammation of the small airways (n = 5) were identified. Also in the group of animals with RAO subgroups with slight (n = 16) and severe (n = 9) bronchiolitis could be formed. These four subgroups can be separated in parts by the number of cells positive for Chlamydia psittaci antigens.
Chlamydophila psittaci or abortus were present in the lung of both clinically healthy horses and those with RAO. Immunohistochemistry revealed acute chlamydial infections with inflammation in RAO horses, whereas in clinically healthy animals mostly persistent chlamydial infection and no inflammatory reactions were seen. Stable dust as the known fundamental abiotic factor in RAO is comparable to smoking in human disease. These results show that RAO can be used as a model for human COPD.
PMCID: PMC2276488  PMID: 18230187
25.  Therapeutic Chlamydophila abortus and C. pecorum Vaccination Transiently Reduces Bovine Mastitis Associated with Chlamydophila Infection▿  
Infection and Immunity  2006;75(2):870-877.
Infections with Chlamydophila abortus and C. pecorum are highly prevalent in cattle and have been associated with bovine mastitis. A prospective cohort study was conducted with a herd of 140 Holstein dairy cows to investigate the influence of Chlamydophila infection on subclinical inflammation of the bovine mammary gland as characterized by somatic cell numbers in milk. PCR detection of C. abortus and low serum antibody levels against Chlamydophila spp. were significantly associated with subclinical mastitis. To examine the effect of the infection by response modification, immune perturbation was done by two subcutaneous administrations of an experimental vaccine preparation of inactivated C. abortus and C. pecorum elementary bodies. Vaccination against Chlamydophila highly significantly decreased milk somatic cell numbers, thus reducing bovine mastitis, and increased antibody levels against Chlamydophila but did not eliminate shedding of C. abortus in milk as detected by PCR. The protective effect peaked at 11 weeks after vaccination and lasted for a total of 14 weeks. Vaccination with the Chlamydophila vaccine, a mock vaccine, or a combination vaccine against bovine viral diseases highly significantly increased C. abortus shedding in milk for 1 week, presumably mediated by the vaccine adjuvant. In summary, this study shows an etiological involvement of the widespread Chlamydophila infections in bovine mastitis, a herd disease of critical importance for the dairy industry. Furthermore, this investigation shows the potential for temporary improvement of chlamydial disease by therapeutic vaccination. Chlamydophila vaccination of cattle might serve as a testing ground for vaccines against human chlamydial infections.
PMCID: PMC1828509  PMID: 17118976

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