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1.  Autophagy stimulation by rapamycin suppresses lung inflammation and infection by Burkholderia cenocepacia in a model of cystic fibrosis 
Autophagy  2011;7(11):1359-1370.
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is the most common inherited lethal disease in Caucasians which results in multiorgan dysfunction. However, 85% of the deaths are due to pulmonary infections. Infection by Burkholderia cenocepacia (B. cepacia) is a particularly lethal threat to CF patients because it causes severe and persistent lung inflammation and is resistant to nearly all available antibiotics. In CFTR ΔF508 (ΔF508) mouse macrophages, B. cepacia persists in vacuoles that do not fuse with the lysosomes and mediates increased production of IL-1β. It is believed that intracellular bacterial survival contributes to the persistence of the bacterium. Here we show for the first time that in wild-type but not in ΔF508 macrophages, many B. cepacia reside in autophagosomes that fuse with lysosomes at later stages of infection. Accordingly, association and intracellular survival of B. cepacia are higher in CFTR-ΔF508 macrophages than in WT macrophages. An autophagosome is a compartment that engulfs nonfunctional organelles and parts of the cytoplasm then delivers them to the lysosome for degradation to produce nutrients during periods of starvation or stress. Furthermore, we show that B. cepacia downregulates autophagy genes in WT and ΔF508 macrophages. However, autophagy dysfunction is more pronounced in ΔF508 macrophages since they already have compromised autophagy activity. We demonstrate that the autophagystimulating agent, rapamycin markedly decreases B. cepacia infection in vitro by enhancing the clearance of B. cepacia via induced autophagy. In vivo, rapamycin decreases bacterial burden in the lungs of CF mice and drastically reduces signs of lung inflammation. Together, our studies reveal that if efficiently activated, autophagy can control B. cepacia infection and ameliorate the associated inflammation. Therefore, autophagy is a novel target for new drug development for CF patients to control B. cepacia infection and accompanying inflammation.
doi:10.4161/auto.7.11.17660
PMCID: PMC3359483  PMID: 21997369
autophagy; rapamycin; cystic fibrosis; host-pathogen interaction; Burkholderia cenocepacia; inflammation; macrophages
2.  Asc-Dependent and Independent Mechanisms Contribute to Restriction of Legionella Pneumophila Infection in Murine Macrophages 
The apoptosis-associated speck-like protein containing a caspase recruitment domain (Asc) is an adaptor molecule that mediates inflammatory and apoptotic signals. Legionella pneumophila is an intracellular bacterium and the causative agent of Legionnaire's pneumonia. L. pneumophila is able to cause pneumonia in immuno-compromised humans but not in most inbred mice. Murine macrophages that lack the ability to activate caspase-1, such as caspase-1−/− and Nlrc4−/− allow L. pneumophila infection. This permissiveness is attributed mainly to the lack of active caspase-1 and the absence of its down stream substrates such as caspase-7. However, the role of Asc in control of L. pneumophila infection in mice is unclear. Here we show that caspase-1 is moderately activated in Asc−/− macrophages and that this limited activation is required and sufficient to restrict L. pneumophila growth. Moreover, Asc-independent activation of caspase-1 requires bacterial flagellin and is mainly detected in cellular extracts but not in culture supernatants. We also demonstrate that the depletion of Asc from permissive macrophages enhances bacterial growth by promoting L. pneumophila-mediated activation of the NF-κB pathway and decreasing caspase-3 activation. Taken together, our data demonstrate that L. pneumophila infection in murine macrophages is controlled by several mechanisms: Asc-independent activation of caspase-1 and Asc-dependent regulation of NF-κB and caspase-3 activation.
doi:10.3389/fmicb.2011.00018
PMCID: PMC3112328  PMID: 21713115
inflammasome; caspase-1; Legionella pneumophila; Asc
3.  Apoptosis-associated Speck-like Protein (ASC) Controls Legionella pneumophila Infection in Human Monocytes* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2010;286(5):3203-3208.
The ability of Legionella pneumophila to cause pneumonia is determined by its capability to evade the immune system and grow within human monocytes and their derived macrophages. Human monocytes efficiently activate caspase-1 in response to Salmonella but not to L. pneumophila. The molecular mechanism for the lack of inflammasome activation during L. pneumophila infection is unknown. Evaluation of the expression of several inflammasome components in human monocytes during L. pneumophila infection revealed that the expression of the apoptosis-associated speck-like protein (ASC) and the NOD-like receptor NLRC4 are significantly down-regulated in human monocytes. Exogenous expression of ASC maintained the protein level constant during L. pneumophila infection and conveyed caspase-1 activation and restricted the growth of the pathogen. Further depletion of ASC with siRNA was accompanied with improved NF-κB activation and enhanced L. pneumophila growth. Therefore, our data demonstrate that L. pneumophila manipulates ASC levels to evade inflammasome activation and grow in human monocytes. By targeting ASC, L. pneumophila modulates the inflammasome, the apoptosome, and NF-κB pathway simultaneously.
doi:10.1074/jbc.M110.197681
PMCID: PMC3030324  PMID: 21097506
Caspase; Cellular Immune Response; Immunology; Inflammation; Innate Immunity; ASC; Legionella; NOD-like Receptors; Human Monocytes; Inflammasome

Results 1-3 (3)