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1.  Genome Sequence of Bacterial Interference Strain Staphylococcus aureus 502A 
Genome Announcements  2014;2(2):e00284-14.
Staphylococcus aureus 502A was a strain used in bacterial interference programs during the 1960s and early 1970s. Infants were deliberately colonized with 502A with the goal of preventing colonization with more invasive strains. We present the completed genome sequence of this organism.
PMCID: PMC3983310  PMID: 24723721
2.  Interleukin-33 Increases Antibacterial Defense by Activation of Inducible Nitric Oxide Synthase in Skin 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(2):e1003918.
Interleukin-33 (IL-33) is associated with multiple diseases, including asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, tissue injuries and infections. Although IL-33 has been indicated to be involved in Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) wound infection, little is known about how IL-33 is regulated as a mechanism to increase host defense against skin bacterial infections. To explore the underlying intricate mechanism we first evaluated the expression of IL-33 in skin from S. aureus-infected human patients. Compared to normal controls, IL-33 was abundantly increased in skin of S. aureus-infected patients. We next developed a S. aureus cutaneous infection mouse model and found that IL-33 was significantly increased in dermal macrophages of infected mouse skin. The expression of IL-33 by macrophages was induced by staphylococcal peptidoglycan (PGN) and lipoteichoic acid (LTA) via activation of toll-like receptor 2(TLR2) –mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)-AKT-signal transducer and activator of transcription 3(STAT3) signaling pathway as PGN and LTA failed to induce IL-33 in Tlr2-deficient peritoneal macrophages, and MAPK,AKT, STAT3 inhibitors significantly decreased PGN- or LTA-induced IL-33. IL-33, in turn, acted on macrophages to induce microbicidal nitric oxygen (NO) release. This induction was dependent on inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) activation, as treatment of macrophages with an inhibitor of iNOS, aminoguanidine, significantly decreased IL-33-induced NO release. Moreover, aminoguanidine significantly blocked the capacity of IL-33 to inhibit the growth of S. aureus, and IL-33 silencing in macrophages significantly increased the survival of S. aureus in macrophages. Furthermore, the administration of IL-33-neutralizing antibody into mouse skin decreased iNOS production but increased the survival of S. aureus in skin. These findings reveal that IL-33 can promote antimicrobial capacity of dermal macrophages, thus enhancing antimicrobial defense against skin bacterial infections.
Author Summary
Interleukin-33 (IL-33) is associated with multiple diseases, including asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, tissue injuries and infections. Although IL-33 has been indicated to be involved in wound infections, little is known about how IL-33 is regulated as a mechanism to increase host defense against skin bacterial infections. Here we have shown that Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) cutaneous infection increases IL-33 expression in dermal macrophages in the skin. The expression of IL-33 by macrophages is induced by staphylococcal peptidoglycan (PGN) and lipoteichoic acid (LTA) via activation of toll-like receptor 2(TLR2) –mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)-AKT-signal transducer and activator of transcription 3(STAT3) signaling pathway. IL-33 in turn acts on macrophages to inhibit the growth of S. aureus by binding to its receptor ST2 followed by activation of the AKT-β-catenin pathway, thus inducing and activating inducible nitric oxygen synthase (iNOS) to release microbiocidal nitric oxygen (NO). These findings reveal that IL-33 can promote antimicrobial capacity of dermal macrophages, thus enhancing antimicrobial defense against skin bacterial infections.
PMCID: PMC3930573  PMID: 24586149
3.  Induction of Type I Interferon Signaling Determines the Relative Pathogenicity of Staphylococcus aureus Strains 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(2):e1003951.
The tremendous success of S. aureus as a human pathogen has been explained primarily by its array of virulence factors that enable the organism to evade host immunity. Perhaps equally important, but less well understood, is the importance of the intensity of the host response in determining the extent of pathology induced by S. aureus infection, particularly in the pathogenesis of pneumonia. We compared the pathogenesis of infection caused by two phylogenetically and epidemiologically distinct strains of S. aureus whose behavior in humans has been well characterized. Induction of the type I IFN cascade by strain 502A, due to a NOD2-IRF5 pathway, was the major factor in causing severe pneumonia and death in a murine model of pneumonia and was associated with autolysis and release of peptidogylcan. In contrast to USA300, 502A was readily eliminated from epithelial surfaces in vitro. Nonetheless, 502A caused significantly increased tissue damage due to the organisms that were able to invade systemically and trigger type I IFN responses, and this was ameliorated in Ifnar-/- mice. The success of USA300 to cause invasive infection appears to depend upon its resistance to eradication from epithelial surfaces, but not production of specific toxins. Our studies illustrate the important and highly variable role of type I IFN signaling within a species and suggest that targeted immunomodulation of specific innate immune signaling cascades may be useful to prevent the excessive morbidity associated with S. aureus pneumonia.
Author Summary
The virulence of the S. aureus, and especially that associated with the epidemic MRSA USA300 strains, has been primarily explained by its expression of a specific set of virulence factors. We postulated that that intensity of the host innate immune response activated by specific staphylococcal strains is also critical in determining the severity of infection. By comparing two divergent S. aureus strains, USA300, associated with invasive disease, and 502A, primarily associated with surface colonization, we found that virulence was directly associated with the ability of a strain to stimulate the type I interferon pathway. The morbidity and mortality associated with USA300 could be attributed to its resistance to killing at mucosal surfaces; once past the epithelial barrier it caused less pathology than 502A. In contrast, although 502A was more readily killed by epithelial antimicrobial factors, once into the lung, it caused significantly more pathology in a mouse model of acute pneumonia. These observations suggest that modulating the host response to infection may be useful in preventing some of the disease associated with S. aureus pneumonia.
PMCID: PMC3930619  PMID: 24586160
4.  Emergence of the Epidemic Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Strain USA300 Coincides with Horizontal Transfer of the Arginine Catabolic Mobile Element and speG-mediated Adaptations for Survival on Skin 
mBio  2013;4(6):e00889-13.
The arginine catabolic mobile element (ACME) is the largest genomic region distinguishing epidemic USA300 strains of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) from other S. aureus strains. However, the functional relevance of ACME to infection and disease has remained unclear. Using phylogenetic analysis, we have shown that the modular segments of ACME were assembled into a single genetic locus in Staphylococcus epidermidis and then horizontally transferred to the common ancestor of USA300 strains in an extremely recent event. Acquisition of one ACME gene, speG, allowed USA300 strains to withstand levels of polyamines (e.g., spermidine) produced in skin that are toxic to other closely related S. aureus strains. speG-mediated polyamine tolerance also enhanced biofilm formation, adherence to fibrinogen/fibronectin, and resistance to antibiotic and keratinocyte-mediated killing. We suggest that these properties gave USA300 a major selective advantage during skin infection and colonization, contributing to the extraordinary evolutionary success of this clone.
Over the past 15 years, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has become a major public health problem. It is likely that adaptations in specific MRSA lineages (e.g., USA300) drove the spread of MRSA across the United States and allowed it to replace other, less-virulent S. aureus strains. We suggest that one major factor in the evolutionary success of MRSA may have been the acquisition of a gene (speG) that allows S. aureus to evade the toxicity of polyamines (e.g., spermidine and spermine) that are produced in human skin. Polyamine tolerance likely gave MRSA multiple fitness advantages, including the formation of more-robust biofilms, increased adherence to host tissues, and resistance to antibiotics and killing by human skin cells.
PMCID: PMC3870260  PMID: 24345744
5.  Crystal structures of respiratory pathogen neuraminidases 
Biochemical and biophysical research communications  2009;380(3):10.1016/j.bbrc.2009.01.108.
Currently there is pressing need to develop novel therapeutic agents for the treatment of infections by the human respiratory pathogens Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Streptococcus pneumoniae. The neuraminidases of these pathogens are important for host colonization in animal models of infection and are attractive targets for drug discovery. To aid in the development of inhibitors against these neuraminidases, we have determined the crystal structures of the P. aeruginosa enzyme NanPs and S. pneumoniae enzyme NanA at 1.6 and 1.7 Å resolution, respectively. In situ proteolysis with trypsin was essential for the crystallization of our recombinant NanA. The active site regions of the two enzymes are strikingly different. NanA contains a deep pocket that is similar to that in canonical neuraminidases, while the NanPs active site is much more open. The comparative studies suggest that NanPs may not be a classical neuraminidase, and may have distinct natural substrates and physiological functions. This work represents an important step in the development of drugs to prevent respiratory tract colonization by these two pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3836282  PMID: 19284989
Streptococcus pneumoniae; Pseudomonas aeruginosa; neuraminidase; crystal structure; pneumonia
6.  Staphylococcus aureus induces type I interferon signaling in dendritic cells via TLR9 
The importance of type I IFN signaling in the innate immune response to viral and intracellular pathogens is well established, with an increasing literature implicating extracellular bacterial pathogens, including Staphylococcus aureus in this signaling pathway. Airway epithelial cells and especially dendritic cells (DC) contribute to the production of type I IFNs in the lung. We were interested in establishing how S. aureus activates the type I IFN cascade in DC. In vitro studies confirmed the rapid uptake of S. aureus by DC followed promptly by STAT1 phosphorylation and expression of IFN-β. Signaling occurred using heat-killed organism and in the absence of PVL and α-toxin. Consistent with the participation of endosomal and not cytosolic receptors, signaling was predominantly mediated by MyD88, TLR9 and IRF1 and blocked by cytochalasin D, dynasore and chloroquine. To determine the role of TLR9 signaling in the pathogenesis of S. aureus pneumonia we infected WT and Tlr9−/− mice with MRSA USA300. Tlr9−/− mice had significantly improved clearance of S. aureus from the airways and lung tissue. Ifnar−/− mice also had improved clearance. This enhanced clearance in Tlr9−/− mice was not due to differences in the numbers of recruited neutrophils into the airways, but instead correlated with decreased induction of TNF. Thus, we identified TLR9 as the critical receptor mediating the induction of type I IFN signaling in dendritic cells in response to S. aureus, illustrating an additional mechanism through which S. aureus exploits innate immune signaling to facilitate infection.
PMCID: PMC3466375  PMID: 22962685
7.  Bacterial Pathogens Activate a Common Inflammatory Pathway through IFNλ Regulation of PDCD4 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(10):e1003682.
The type III interferon (IFNλ) receptor IL-28R is abundantly expressed in the respiratory tract and has been shown essential for host defense against some viral pathogens, however no data are available concerning its role in the innate immune response to bacterial pathogens. Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa induced significant production of IFNλ in the lung, and clearance of these bacteria from the lung was significantly increased in IL-28R null mice compared to controls. Improved bacterial clearance correlated with reduced lung pathology and a reduced ratio of pro- vs anti-inflammatory cytokines in the airway. In human epithelial cells IFNλ inhibited miR-21 via STAT3 resulting in upregulation of PDCD4, a protein known to promote inflammatory signaling. In vivo 18 hours following infection with either pathogen, miR-21 was significantly reduced and PDCD4 increased in the lungs of wild type compared to IL-28R null mice. Infection of PDCD4 null mice with USA300 resulted in improved clearance, reduced pathology, and reduced inflammatory cytokine production. These data suggest that during bacterial pneumonia IFNλ promotes inflammation by inhibiting miR-21 regulation of PDCD4.
Author Summary
The role of interferons (types I, II, and III) in viral and bacterial infections has been a topic of intense research over the last decade. The contribution of the type I interferons during bacterial pneumonias particularly has been shown to be highly variable depending on the specific pathogen. Our data for the first time demonstrate that type III interferon plays a significant role in the pathogenesis of bacterial pneumonia, and its contribution is similar in both Gram positive and Gram negative infections. We show in epithelial cells that miR-21 and PDCD4 are downstream effectors of type III interferon that prolong production of inflammatory cytokines. Utilizing mice that lack the receptor for type III interferon or PDCD4, we show that inhibiting this pathway improves bacterial clearance from the airways and lung tissue. These data suggest novel targets for therapy in a variety of bacterial pneumonias.
PMCID: PMC3789769  PMID: 24098127
8.  A Postinfluenza Model of Staphylococcus aureus Pneumonia 
The Journal of infectious diseases  2010;201(4):508-515.
Postinfluenza Staphylococcus aureus pneumonias are increasingly recognized as a major form of life-threatening infections.
A mouse model of postinfluenza S. aureus pneumonia was developed. Mice were intranasally infected with bacteria alone or bacteria plus virus. Infection was assessed by mouse survival, lung histopathology, bacterial density in the lungs, and cellular response to infection.
Mice infected with both influenza virus and S. aureus showed higher mortality, greater lung parenchymal damage, and greater bacterial density at metastatic tissue sites than mice infected with only S. aureus. At 4 h, more polymorphonuclear leukocytes and fewer CD11c+ cells were found in lung samples from mice infected with virus and bacteria than in those from mice infected with bacteria. α-Hemolysin and protein A were maximally expressed 4 h after infection, and Panton-Valentine leukocidin was maximally expressed 72 h after infection, with higher levels of α-hemolysin expression in mice infected with bacteria alone. Interferon γ expression was higher in tissue collected from mice infected with virus plus bacteria than in those from bacteria-infected mice.
The results from this model demonstrate diverse effects caused by antecedent influenza virus infection, which have a profound influence on the morbidity and mortality associated with S. aureus pneumonia.
PMCID: PMC3664424  PMID: 20078212
9.  Staphylococcus aureus Activation of Caspase 1/Calpain Signaling Mediates Invasion Through Human Keratinocytes 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2012;205(10):1571-1579.
The USA300 strains of Staphylococcus aureus are the major cause of skin and soft tissue infection in the United States. Invasive USA300 infection has been attributed to several virulence factors, including protein A and the α-hemolysin (Hla), which cause pathology by activating host signaling cascades. Here we show that S. aureus exploits the proinflammatory bias of human keratinocytes to activate pyroptosis, a caspase 1–dependent form of inflammatory cell death, which was required for staphylococci to penetrate across a keratinocyte barrier. Keratinocyte necrosis was mediated by calpains, Ca2+-dependent intracellular proteases whose endogenous inhibitor, calpastatin, is targeted by Hla-induced caspase 1. Neither Panton-Valentine leukocidin nor protein A expression was essential, but inhibition of either calpain or caspase 1 activity was sufficient to prevent staphylococcal invasion across the keratinocytes. These studies suggest that pharmacological interruption of specific keratinocyte signaling cascades as well as targeting the Hla might prevent invasive skin infection by staphylococci.
PMCID: PMC3415815  PMID: 22457275
10.  Epithelial Uptake of Flagella Initiates Proinflammatory Signaling 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e59932.
The airway epithelium serves multiple roles in the defense of the lung. Not only does it act as a physical barrier, it acts as a distal extension of the innate immune system. We investigated the role of the airway epithelium in the interaction with flagella, an important virulence factor of the pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a cause of ventilator associated pneumonia and significant morbidity and mortality in patients with cystic fibrosis. Flagella were required for transmigration across polarized airway epithelial cells and this was a direct consequence of motility, and not a signaling effect. Purified flagella did not alter the barrier properties of the epithelium but were observed to be rapidly endocytosed inside epithelial cells. Neither flagella nor intact P. aeruginosa stimulated epithelial inflammasome signaling. Flagella-dependent signaling required dynamin-based uptake as well as TLR5 and primarily led to the induction of proinflammatory (Tnf, Il6) as well as neutrophil (Cxcl1, Cxcl2, Ccl3) and macrophage (Ccl20) chemokines. Although flagella are important in invasion across the epithelial barrier their shedding in the airway lumen results in epithelial uptake and signaling that has a major role in the initial recruitment of immune cells in the lung.
PMCID: PMC3603936  PMID: 23527288
11.  Activation of inflammasome signaling mediates pathology of acute P. aeruginosa pneumonia  
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2013;123(4):1630-1637.
The respiratory tract is exceptionally well defended against infection from inhaled bacteria, with multiple proinflammatory signaling cascades recruiting phagocytes to clear airway pathogens. However, organisms that efficiently activate damaging innate immune responses, such as those mediated by the inflammasome and caspase-1, may cause pulmonary damage and interfere with bacterial clearance. The extracellular, opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa expresses not only pathogen-associated molecular patterns that activate NF-κB signaling in epithelial and immune cells, but also flagella that activate the NLRC4 inflammasome. We demonstrate that induction of inflammasome signaling, ascribed primarily to the alveolar macrophage, impaired P. aeruginosa clearance and was associated with increased apoptosis/pyroptosis and mortality in a murine model of acute pneumonia. Strategies that limited inflammasome activation, including infection by fliC mutants, depletion of macrophages, deletion of NLRC4, reduction of IL-1β and IL-18 production, inhibition of caspase-1, and inhibition of downstream signaling in IL-1R– or IL-18R–null mice, all resulted in enhanced bacterial clearance and diminished pathology. These results demonstrate that the inflammasome provides a potential target to limit the pathological consequences of acute P. aeruginosa pulmonary infection.
PMCID: PMC3613922  PMID: 23478406
12.  Immunopathogenesis of Staphylococcus aureus pulmonary infection 
Seminars in immunopathology  2011;34(2):281-297.
Staphylococcus aureus is a common human pathogen highly evolved as both a component of the commensal flora and as a major cause of invasive infection. Severe respiratory infection due to staphylococci has been increasing due to the prevalence of more virulent USA300 CA-MRSA strains in the general population. The ability of S. aureus to adapt to the milieu of the respiratory tract has facilitated its emergence as a respiratory pathogen. Its metabolic versatility, the ability to scavenge iron, coordinate gene expression, and the horizontal acquisition of useful genetic elements have all contributed to its success as a component of the respiratory flora, in hospitalized patients, as a complication of influenza and in normal hosts. The expression of surface adhesins facilitates its persistence in the airways. In addition, the highly sophisticated interactions of the multiple S. aureus virulence factors, particularly the α-hemolysin and protein A, with diverse immune effectors in the lung such as ADAM10, TNFR1, EGFR, immunoglobulin, and complement all contribute to the pathogenesis of staphylococcal pneumonia.
PMCID: PMC3577067  PMID: 22037948
Airway; Lung; Epithelial; Staphylococcus aureus; Virulence; Signaling
13.  Cystic fibrosis: a mucosal immunodeficiency syndrome 
Nature medicine  2012;18(4):509-519.
Cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) functions as a channel that regulates the transport of ions and the movement of water across the epithelial barrier. Mutations in CFTR, which form the basis for the clinical manifestations of cystic fibrosis, affect the epithelial innate immune function in the lung, resulting in exaggerated and ineffective airway inflammation that fails to eradicate pulmonary pathogens. Compounding the effects of excessive neutrophil recruitment, the mutant CFTR channel does not transport antioxidants to counteract neutrophil-associated oxidative stress. Whereas mutant CFTR expression in leukocytes outside of the lung does not markedly impair their function, the expected regulation of inflammation in the airways is clearly deficient in cystic fibrosis. The resulting bacterial infections, which are caused by organisms that have substantial genetic and metabolic flexibility, can resist multiple classes of antibiotics and evade phagocytic clearance. The development of animal models that approximate the human pulmonary phenotypes—airway inflammation and spontaneous infection—may provide the much-needed tools to establish how CFTR regulates mucosal immunity and to test directly the effect of pharmacologic potentiation and correction of mutant CFTR function on bacterial clearance.
PMCID: PMC3577071  PMID: 22481418
14.  Nox2 Modification of LDL Is Essential for Optimal Apolipoprotein B-mediated Control of agr Type III Staphylococcus aureus Quorum-sensing 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(2):e1003166.
Staphylococcus aureus contains an autoinducing quorum-sensing system encoded within the agr operon that coordinates expression of virulence genes required for invasive infection. Allelic variation within agr has generated four agr specific groups, agr I–IV, each of which secretes a distinct autoinducing peptide pheromone (AIP1-4) that drives agr signaling. Because agr signaling mediates a phenotypic change in this pathogen from an adherent colonizing phenotype to one associated with considerable tissue injury and invasiveness, we postulated that a significant contribution to host defense against tissue damaging and invasive infections could be provided by innate immune mechanisms that antagonize agr signaling. We determined whether two host defense factors that inhibit AIP1-induced agrI signaling, Nox2 and apolipoprotein B (apoB), also contribute to innate control of AIP3-induced agrIII signaling. We hypothesized that apoB and Nox2 would function differently against AIP3, which differs from AIP1 in amino acid sequence and length. Here we show that unlike AIP1, AIP3 is resistant to direct oxidant inactivation by Nox2 characteristic ROS. Rather, the contribution of Nox2 to defense against agrIII signaling is through oxidation of LDL. ApoB in the context of oxLDL, and not LDL, provides optimal host defense against S. aureus agrIII infection by binding the secreted signaling peptide, AIP3, and preventing expression of the agr-driven virulence factors which mediate invasive infection. ApoB within the context of oxLDL also binds AIP 1-4 and oxLDL antagonizes agr signaling by all four agr alleles. Our results suggest that Nox2-mediated oxidation of LDL facilitates a conformational change in apoB to one sufficient for binding and sequestration of all four AIPs, demonstrating the interdependence of apoB and Nox2 in host defense against agr signaling. These data reveal a novel role for oxLDL in host defense against S. aureus quorum-sensing signaling.
Author Summary
Staphylococcus aureus is a common colonizer of humans but can also cause severe, invasive infection. S. aureus uses a secreted peptide-based communication system, agr, to induce production of virulence factors needed for invasive infection. Allelic variation has generated four agr types, agr I–IV, and each secretes a distinct autoinducing peptide (AIP1-4) that differs in amino acid sequence and length. Understanding host factors that prevent signaling by each of the four agr specific groups (agrI–IV) could provide opportunities for prevention of infection or therapeutic intervention. We previously demonstrated that apolipoprotein B (apoB), the major structural protein of very low and low density lipoproteins (VLDL, LDL), binds to the secreted agrI peptide, AIP1, and prevents agr signaling. In addition, the NADPH oxidase Nox2 produces reactive oxygen species which directly modify and inactive AIP1. Here we examined the role of apoB and Nox2 in defense against agrIII-signaling. We found that apoB in oxidized LDL, but not in native LDL, mediated optimal binding of AIP3. Also, unlike AIP1, Nox2 did not directly inactivate AIP3. Rather Nox2 contributed to defense against agrIII-signaling by oxidizing LDL. Furthermore, we found that oxLDL bound all four AIPs and antagonized agr signaling by each agr allele in vitro. These results expand our understanding of host defense against S. aureus agr signaling.
PMCID: PMC3573103  PMID: 23459693
15.  Induction of Type I Interferon Signaling by Pseudomonas aeruginosa Is Diminished in Cystic Fibrosis Epithelial Cells 
The clinical manifestations of infection in cystic fibrosis (CF) are restricted to the lung, and involve a limited number of pathogens, suggesting a specific defect in mucosal immunity. We postulated that cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CTFR) mutations could affect the activation of type I interferon signaling in airway epithelial cells, which function in immune surveillance and initiate the recruitment and activation of immune cells. In response to infection with Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Ifnb was induced more than 100-fold in the murine lung, and the phosphorylation of STAT1 was similarly induced by the expected TLR4/TRIF/MD2/TBK1 cascade. The stimulation by P. aeruginosa of CF (IB3) cells and control (C-38) human cell lines similarly resulted in the induction of IFN-β, but to a significantly lower extent in CF airway cells. The potential consequences of diminished type I IFN signaling were demonstrated in a murine model of P. aeruginosa pneumonia, pretreatment with polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid significantly enhanced bacterial clearance and correlated with increased numbers of mature CD11c+/CD86+ dendritic cells (DCs) in the lung. Using culture supernatants from CF or control cell lines stimulated with P. aeruginosa, we similarly demonstrated the diminished activation of human monocyte–derived DCs by incubation with CF compared with normal epithelial cell culture supernatants, which was dependent on IFN-β. These observations suggest that dysfunction of the CFTR in airway epithelial cells may contribute to impaired immune surveillance in the CF airway and resultant colonization by P. aeruginosa.
PMCID: PMC3262660  PMID: 21778412
Type I interferon; cystic fibrosis; Pseudomonas aeruginosa; TLR4
16.  The bitter taste of infection 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2012;122(11):3847-3849.
The human innate immune response to pathogens is complex, and it has been difficult to establish the contribution of epithelial signaling in the prevention of upper respiratory tract infection. The prevalence of chronic sinusitis in the absence of systemic immune defects indicates that there may be local defects in innate immunity associated with such mucosal infections. In this issue of the JCI, Cohen and colleagues investigate the role of the bitter taste receptors in airway epithelial cells, and find that these are critical to sensing the presence of invading pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3484466  PMID: 23041625
17.  The type I IFN response to extracellular bacteria in the airway epithelium 
Trends in immunology  2011;32(12):582-588.
The airway epithelium possesses many mechanisms to prevent bacterial infection. Not only does it provide a physical barrier but it also acts as an extension of the immune system through the expression of innate immune receptors and corresponding effectors. One outcome of innate signaling by the epithelium is the production of type I interferons (IFN) , which have traditionally been associated with activation via viral and intracellular organisms. We discuss how three extracellular bacterial pathogens of the airway activate this intracellular signaling cascade through both surface components as well as via secretion systems and the differing effects of type I IFN signaling on host defense of the respiratory tract.
PMCID: PMC3221817  PMID: 21996313
18.  Innate Immunity in the Respiratory Epithelium 
The airway epithelium represents the first point of contact for inhaled foreign organisms. The protective arsenal of the airway epithelium is provided in the form of physical barriers and a vast array of receptors and antimicrobial compounds that constitute the innate immune system. Many of the known innate immune receptors, including the Toll-like receptors and nucleotide oligomerization domain–like receptors, are expressed by the airway epithelium, which leads to the production of proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines that affect microorganisms directly and recruit immune cells, such as neutrophils and T cells, to the site of infection. The airway epithelium also produces a number of resident antimicrobial proteins, such as lysozyme, lactoferrin, and mucins, as well as a swathe of cationic proteins. Dysregulation of the airway epithelial innate immune system is associated with a number of medical conditions that can result in compromised immunity and chronic inflammation of the lung. This review focuses on the innate immune capabilities of the airway epithelium and its role in protecting the lung from infection as well as the outcomes when its function is compromised.
PMCID: PMC3175551  PMID: 21330463
innate immunity; respiratory; airway; signaling
19.  Participation of CD11c+ Leukocytes in Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Clearance from the Lung ▿  
Infection and Immunity  2011;79(5):1898-1904.
Staphylococcus aureus causes especially severe pulmonary infection, associated with high morbidity and mortality. In addition to the effects of specific virulence factors, it appears that the intensity of the host proinflammatory response, particularly in the initial stages of infection, contributes substantially to pulmonary damage. We tested the hypothesis that the CD11c+ leukocytes are important in the host response to pulmonary infection with methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) USA300. Clodronate-induced depletion of the alveolar macrophage population resulted in increased numbers of dendritic cells (DCs) and CD4+ cells in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid and was associated with significantly increased mortality by 18 h following S. aureus inoculation but had no effect on bacterial load or polymorphonuclear leukocyte (PMN) numbers in the lung. These clodronate-treated mice also had increased expression of interleukin-17A/F (IL-17A/F) and CXCL10 but not of gamma interferon (IFN-γ) or tumor necrosis factor (TNF). Depletion of the dendritic cell population in mice expressing a CD11c-enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP)-diphtheria toxin receptor (DTR) transgene was associated with an increased bacterial load in the lung but not increased mortality. Both DCs and airway epithelial cells produced CXCL9, -10, and -11 in response to S. aureus. Pretreatment of mice with an anti-CXCR3 antibody prior to inoculation with MRSA substantially reduced CD4+ cells and decreased pulmonary inflammation at 18 h postinfection compared to pretreatment with an IgG control. The results of these experiments suggest that CD11c+ cells, the induction of CXCR3 ligand expression, and subsequent CD4+ cell recruitment have an important role in the pathogenesis of severe MRSA pulmonary infection.
PMCID: PMC3088152  PMID: 21402768
20.  Streptococcus pneumoniae DNA Initiates Type I Interferon Signaling in the Respiratory Tract 
mBio  2011;2(3):e00016-11.
The mucosal epithelium is the initial target for respiratory pathogens of all types. While type I interferon (IFN) signaling is traditionally associated with antiviral immunity, we demonstrate that the extracellular bacterial pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae activates the type I IFN cascade in airway epithelial and dendritic cells. This response is dependent upon the pore-forming toxin pneumolysin. Pneumococcal DNA activates IFN-β expression through a DAI/STING/TBK1/IRF3 cascade. Tlr4−/−, Myd88−/−, Trif−/−, and Nod2−/− mutant mice had no impairment of type I IFN signaling. Induction of type I IFN signaling contributes to the eradication of pneumococcal carriage, as IFN-α/β receptor null mice had significantly increased nasal colonization with S. pneumoniae compared with that of wild-type mice. These studies suggest that the type I IFN cascade is a central component of the mucosal response to airway bacterial pathogens and is responsive to bacterial pathogen-associated molecular patterns that are capable of accessing intracellular receptors.
The bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae is a leading cause of bacterial pneumonia, leading to upwards of one million deaths a year worldwide and significant economic burden. Although it is known that antibody is critical for efficient phagocytosis, it is not known how this pathogen is sensed by the mucosal epithelium. We demonstrate that this extracellular pathogen activates mucosal signaling typically activated by viral pathogens via the pneumolysin pore to activate intracellular receptors and the type I interferon (IFN) cascade. Mice lacking the receptor to type I IFNs have a reduced ability to clear S. pneumoniae, suggesting that the type I IFN cascade is central to the mucosal clearance of this important pathogen.
PMCID: PMC3101776  PMID: 21586648
21.  The NanA Neuraminidase of Streptococcus pneumoniae Is Involved in Biofilm Formation▿  
Infection and Immunity  2009;77(9):3722-3730.
Streptococcus pneumoniae remains a major cause of bacteremia, pneumonia, and otitis media despite vaccines and effective antibiotics. The neuraminidase of S. pneumoniae, which catalyzes the release of terminal sialic acid residues from glycoconjugates, is involved in host colonization in animal models of infection and may provide a novel target for preventing pneumococcal infection. We demonstrate that the S. pneumoniae neuraminidase (NanA) cleaves sialic acid and show that it is involved in biofilm formation, suggesting an additional role in pathogenesis, and that it shares this property with the neuraminidase of Pseudomonas aeruginosa even though we show that the two enzymes are phylogenetically divergent. Using an in vitro model of biofilm formation incorporating human airway epithelial cells, we demonstrate that small-molecule inhibitors of NanA block biofilm formation and may provide a novel target for preventative therapy. This work highlights the role played by the neuraminidase in pathogenesis and represents an important step in drug development for prevention of colonization of the respiratory tract by this important pathogen.
PMCID: PMC2738052  PMID: 19564377
22.  TLR2 induced calpain activity modulates epithelial junctions to facilitate PMN transmigration 
Cell host & microbe  2009;5(1):47-58.
Recruitment of PMNs into the lungs in response to inhaled pathogens is initiated by epithelial signaling, the activation of toll-like receptors (TLR) and IL-8 production. As PMNs must be mobilized through epithelial junctions to reach the site of infection, we postulated that TLR signaling includes a mechanism to modulate the epithelial barrier to accommodate PMN migration. We demonstrate that Ca2+ fluxes generated by TLR2 signals activate calpains which cleave the transmembrane proteins occludin and E-cadherin. Calpain inhibitors decrease PMN transmigration in response to TLR2 agonists both in vitro and in a mouse model of P. aeruginosa infection. TLR2 signaling in the airway not only induces chemokine expression, but also initiates cleavage of junctional proteins to accommodate transmigration of recruited PMNs.
PMCID: PMC2768384  PMID: 19154987
23.  TLR2 Regulates Gap Junction Intercellular Communication in Airway Cells 
The innate immune response to inhaled bacteria, such as the opportunist Pseudomonas aeruginosa, is initiated by TLR2 displayed on the apical surface of airway epithelial cells. Activation of TLR2 is accompanied by an immediate Ca2+ flux that is both necessary and sufficient to stimulate NF-κB and MAPK proinflammatory signaling to recruit and activate polymorphonuclear leukocytes in the airway. In human airway cells gap junction channels were found to provide a regulated conduit for the movement of Ca2+ from cell to cell. In response to TLR2 stimulation, by either lipid agonists or P. aeruginosa, gap junctions functioned to transiently amplify proinflammatory signaling by communicating Ca2+ fluxes from stimulated to adjacent, non-stimulated cells thus increasing epithelial CXCL8 production. P. aeruginosa stimulation also induced tyrosine phosphorylation of Connexin 43 and association with c-Src, events linked to the closure of these channels. By 4 hours post bacterial stimulation, gap junction communication was decreased indicating an autoregulatory control of the connexins. Thus, gap junction channels comprised of Connexin 43 and other connexins in airway cells provide a mechanism to coordinate and regulate the epithelial immune response even in the absence of signals from the immune system.
PMCID: PMC2712445  PMID: 18354224
Inflammation; lung; mucosa
24.  Staphylococcus aureus activates type I IFN signaling in mice and humans through the Xr repeated sequences of protein A  
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2009;119(7):1931-1939.
The activation of type I IFN signaling is a major component of host defense against viral infection, but it is not typically associated with immune responses to extracellular bacterial pathogens. Using mouse and human airway epithelial cells, we have demonstrated that Staphylococcus aureus activates type I IFN signaling, which contributes to its virulence as a respiratory pathogen. This response was dependent on the expression of protein A and, more specifically, the Xr domain, a short sequence–repeat region encoded by DNA that consists of repeated 24-bp sequences that are the basis of an internationally used epidemiological typing scheme. Protein A was endocytosed by airway epithelial cells and subsequently induced IFN-β expression, JAK-STAT signaling, and IL-6 production. Mice lacking IFN-α/β receptor 1 (IFNAR-deficient mice), which are incapable of responding to type I IFNs, were substantially protected against lethal S. aureus pneumonia compared with wild-type control mice. The profound immunological consequences of IFN-β signaling, particularly in the lung, may help to explain the conservation of multiple copies of the Xr domain of protein A in S. aureus strains and the importance of protein A as a virulence factor in the pathogenesis of staphylococcal pneumonia.
PMCID: PMC2701857  PMID: 19603548
25.  The Type III Toxins of Pseudomonas aeruginosa Disrupt Epithelial Barrier Function▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;190(8):2814-2821.
The type III secreted toxins of Pseudomonas aeruginosa are important virulence factors associated with clinically important infection. However, their effects on bacterial invasion across mucosal surfaces have not been well characterized. One of the most commonly expressed toxins, ExoS, has two domains that are predicted to affect cytoskeletal integrity, including a GTPase-activating protein (GAP) domain, which targets Rho, a major regulator of actin polymerization; and an ADP-ribosylating domain that affects the ERM proteins, which link the plasma membrane to the actin cytoskeleton. The activities of these toxins, and ExoS specifically, on the permeability properties of polarized airway epithelial cells with intact tight junctions were examined. Strains expressing type III toxins altered the distribution of the tight junction proteins ZO-1 and occludin and were able to transmigrate across polarized airway epithelial monolayers, in contrast to ΔSTY mutants. These effects on epithelial permeability were associated with the ADP-ribosylating domain of ExoS, as bacteria expressing plasmids lacking expression of the ExoS GAP activity nonetheless increased the permeation of fluorescent dextrans, as well as bacteria, across polarized airway epithelial cells. Treatment of epithelial cells with cytochalasin D depolymerized actin filaments and increased permeation across the monolayers but did not eliminate the differential effects of wild-type and toxin-negative mutants on the epithelial cells, suggesting that additional epithelial targets are involved. Confocal imaging studies demonstrated that ZO-1, occludin, and ezrin undergo substantial redistribution in human airway cells intoxicated by ExoS, -T, and -Y. These studies support the hypothesis that type III toxins enhance P. aeruginosa's invasive capabilities by interacting with multiple eukaryotic cytoskeletal components.
PMCID: PMC2293221  PMID: 18165298

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