Complement receptor 3 (CR3, CD11b/CD18) is a major macrophage phagocytic receptor. The biochemical pathways through which CR3 regulates immunologic responses have not been fully characterized. Francisella tularensis is a remarkably infectious, facultative intracellular pathogen of macrophages that causes tularemia. Early evasion of the host immune response contributes to the virulence of F. tularensis and CR3 is an important receptor for its phagocytosis. Here we confirm that efficient attachment and uptake of the highly virulent Type A F. tularensis spp. tularensis strain Schu S4 by human monocyte-derived macrophages (hMDMs) requires complement C3 opsonization and CR3. However, despite a>40-fold increase in uptake following C3 opsonization, Schu S4 induces limited pro-inflammatory cytokine production compared with non-opsonized Schu S4 and the low virulent F. novicida. This suggests that engagement of CR3 by opsonized Schu S4 contributes specifically to the immune suppression during and shortly following phagocytosis which we demonstrate by CD11b siRNA knockdown in hMDMs. This immune suppression is concomitant with early inhibition of ERK1/2, p38 MAPK and NF-κB activation. Furthermore, TLR2 siRNA knockdown shows that pro-inflammatory cytokine production and MAPK activation in response to non-opsonized Schu S4 depends on TLR2 signaling providing evidence that CR3-TLR2 crosstalk mediates immune suppression for opsonized Schu S4. Deletion of the CD11b cytoplasmic tail reverses the CR3-mediated decrease in ERK and p38 activation during opsonized Schu-S4 infection. The CR3-mediated signaling pathway involved in this immune suppression includes Lyn kinase and Akt activation, and increased MKP-1, which limits TLR2-mediated pro-inflammatory responses. These data indicate that while the highly virulent F. tularensis uses CR3 for efficient uptake, optimal engagement of this receptor down-regulates TLR2-dependent pro-inflammatory responses by inhibiting MAPK activation through outside-in signaling. CR3-linked immune suppression is an important mechanism involved in the pathogenesis of F. tularensis infection.
The highly virulent Francisella tularensis can cause respiratory disease in humans with less than 10 bacteria. In vivo, it replicates mainly within macrophages. Evasion and/or suppression of the host protective immune response is essential to Francisella's virulence in mammals. However, the detailed molecular mechanisms for this immune suppression are not clear. Here we demonstrate that this pathogen manipulates the crosstalk between two important receptor-mediated pathways during entry in human macrophages: CR3-mediated phagocytosis and TLR2-mediated pro-inflammatory responses. By optimally engaging CR3, Francisella not only gains efficient access to macrophages but also dampens TLR2-mediated immune responses, leading to a relatively “silent” entry that allows it to replicate intracellularly to high numbers early on. Thus, we have identified an important mechanism that is critical for the success of F. tularensis as a human pathogen during primary infection.
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.
autophagy; rapamycin; cystic fibrosis; host-pathogen interaction; Burkholderia cenocepacia; inflammation; macrophages
Complement Receptor 3 (CR3) and Toll-like Receptor 2 (TLR2) are pattern recognition receptors expressed on the surface of human macrophages. Although these receptors are essential components for recognition by the innate immune system, pathogen coordinated crosstalk between them can suppress the production of protective cytokines and promote infection. Recognition of the virulent Schu S4 strain of the intracellular pathogen Francisella tularensis by host macrophages involves CR3/TLR2 crosstalk. Although experimental data provide evidence that Lyn kinase and PI3K are essential components of the CR3 pathway that influences TLR2 activity, additional responsible upstream signaling components remain unknown. In this paper we construct a mathematical model of CR3 and TLR2 signaling in response to F. tularensis. After demonstrating that the model is consistent with experimental results we perform numerical simulations to evaluate the contributions that Akt and Ras-GAP make to ERK inhibition. The model confirms that phagocytosis-associated changes in the composition of the cell membrane can inhibit ERK activity and predicts that Akt and Ras-GAP synergize to inhibit ERK.
In the current work we construct a highly contextual model of membrane-proximal crosstalk between the ERK and PI3K cascades that is initiated through contact with F. tularensis. The model is used to test the hypothesis that phagocytic signaling downstream from CR3 is responsible for an early inhibition of ERK activity, which is seen subsequent to contact with the complement C3-opsonized Schu S4 strain of F. tularensis. In addition, the model predicts that Akt and Ras-GAP synergize to inhibit ERK. To the best of our knowledge this is the first mathematical model to investigate crosstalk between these pathways within the context of infection. By providing a comprehensive picture of the initial host-pathogen interaction, and pathogen-induced crosstalk between cell surface receptors in particular, this model is important in the context of microbial immunopathogenesis.
Members of the Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) are naturally occurring bacteria in the environment. A link has been suggested between M. avium strains in drinking water and clinical isolates from infected individuals. There is a need to develop new screening methodologies that can identify specific virulence properties of M. avium isolates found in water that predict a level of risk to exposed individuals. In this work we have characterized 15 clinical and environmental M. avium spp. isolates provided by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to improve our understanding of the key processes involved in the binding, uptake and survival of these isolates in primary human macrophages. M. avium serovar 8 was predominant among the isolates studied. Different amounts and exposure of mannose-capped lipoarabinomannan (ManLAM) and glycopeptidolipids (GPLs), both major mycobacterial virulence factors, were found among the isolates studied. Reference clinical isolate 104 serovar 1 and clinical isolates 11 and 14 serovar 8 showed an increased association with macrophages. Serum opsonization increased the cell association and survival at 2 h post infection for all isolates. However, only the clinical isolates 104 and 3 among those tested showed an increased growth in primary human macrophages. The other isolates varied in their survival in these cells. Thus we conclude that the amounts of cell envelope ManLAM and GPL, as well as GPL serovar specificity are not the only important bacterial factors for dictating the early interactions of M. avium with human macrophages.
Francisella tularensis is a remarkably infectious facultative intracellular pathogen that causes the zoonotic disease tularemia. Essential to the pathogenesis of F. tularensis is its ability to escape the destructive phagosomal environment and inhibit the host cell respiratory burst. F. tularensis subspecies encode a series of acid phosphatases, which have been reported to play important roles in Francisella phagosomal escape, inhibition of the respiratory burst, and intracellular survival. However, rigorous demonstration of acid phosphatase secretion by intracellular Francisella has not been shown. Here, we demonstrate that AcpA, which contributes most of the F. tularensis acid phosphatase activity, is secreted into the culture supernatant in vitro by F. novicida and F. tularensis subsp. holarctica LVS. In addition, both F. novicida and the highly virulent F. tularensis subsp. tularensis Schu S4 strain are able to secrete and also translocate AcpA into the host macrophage cytosol. This is the first evidence of acid phosphatase translocation during macrophage infection, and this knowledge will greatly enhance our understanding of the functions of these enzymes in Francisella pathogenesis.
Inhalation anthrax, an often fatal infection, is initiated by endospores of the bacterium Bacillus anthracis that are introduced into the lung. To better understand the pathogenesis of an inhalation anthrax infection, we propose a two compartment mathematical model which takes into account the documented early events of such an infection. Anthrax spores, once inhaled, are readily taken up by alveolar phagocytes which then migrate rather quickly out of the lung and into the thoracic/mediastinal lymph nodes. En route, these spores germinate to become vegetative bacteria. In the lymph nodes, the bacteria kill the host cells and are released into the extracellular environment where they can be disseminated into the blood stream and grow to a very high level, often resulting in death of the infected person. Using this framework as the basis of our model, we explore the probability of survival of an infected individual. This is dependent on several factors, such as the rate of migration and germination events and treatment with antibiotics.
Bacillus anthracis; mathematical modeling; neutrophil response; respiratory pathogens
Mycobacterium tuberculosis contains mannosylated cell wall components which are important in macrophage recognition and response. The building block for the mannosyl constituents of these components is GDP-mannose, which is synthesized through a series of enzymes involved in the mannose donor biosynthesis pathway. Nothing is known about the expression levels of the genes encoding these enzymes during the course of infection. To generate transcriptional profiles for the mannose donor biosynthesis genes from virulent M. tuberculosis and attenuated Mycobacterium bovis BCG, bacteria were grown in broth culture and within human macrophages. Our results with broth-grown bacteria show that there are differences in expression of the selected genes between M. tuberculosis and BCG, with increased expression of manC in M. tuberculosis and manA in BCG during stationary-phase growth. Results for M. tuberculosis extracted from within macrophages show that whiB2 is highly expressed and manB and manC are moderately expressed during infection. Rv3256c, Rv3258c, and ppm1 have high expression levels early and decreased expression as the infection progresses. Results with BCG show that, as in M. tuberculosis, whiB2 is highly expressed throughout infection, whereas there is either low expression or little change in expression of the remaining genes studied. Overall, our results show that there is differential regulation of expression of several genes in the mannose donor biosynthesis pathway of M. tuberculosis and BCG grown in broth and within macrophages, raising the possibility that the level of mannose donors may vary during the course of infection and thereby impact the biosynthesis of mannose-containing cell wall molecules.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.tb), which causes tuberculosis, is a host-adapted intracellular pathogen of macrophages. Intracellular pattern recognition receptors in macrophages such as nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain (NOD) proteins regulate pro-inflammatory cytokine production. NOD2-mediated signalling pathways in response to M.tb have been studied primarily in mouse models and cell lines but not in primary human macrophages. Thus we sought to determine the role of NOD2 in regulating cytokine production and growth of virulent M.tb and attenuated Mycobacterium bovis BCG (BCG) in human macrophages. We examined NOD2 expression during monocyte differentiation and observed a marked increase in NOD2 transcript and protein following 2–3 days in culture. Pre-treatment of human monocyte-derived and alveolar macrophages with the NOD2 ligand muramyl dipeptide enhanced production of TNF-α and IL-1β in response to M.tb and BCG in a RIP2-dependent fashion. The NOD2-mediated cytokine response was significantly reduced following knock-down of NOD2 expression by using small interfering RNA (siRNA) in human macrophages. Finally, NOD2 controlled the growth of both M.tb and BCG in human macrophages, whereas controlling only BCG growth in murine macrophages. Together, our results provide evidence that NOD2 is an important intracellular receptor in regulating the host response to M.tb and BCG infection in human macrophages.
The objective of the study was to evaluate the specificity of a modified interferon gamma release assay procedure that allows storage of blood samples for up to 32 hours before processing. A total of 116 subjects were enrolled for the study. Two blood samples were collected from each volunteer; one specimen was processed within 8 hours and analyzed using the T-SPOT.TB test; the second specimen was stored overnight and processed 23 to 32 hours later after addition of the T-Cell Xtend™ reagent and then analyzed using the T-SPOT.TB test. A total of 108 paired T-SPOT.TB and T-SPOT.TB plus T-Cell Xtend™ tests were analyzed on specimens from 97 adults and 11 children. The median age of the subjects was 28 years old with 68.5% female and 78.7% White. The overall agreement between the two tests was 98.2% (106/108). Specificity of the T-SPOT.TB test was 99.1% (107/108) and for T-SPOT.TB plus T-Cell Xtend was 97.2%. The two tests were comparable in results. Increasing storage time of the collected blood specimen prior to processing provides flexibility for clinicians and laboratories. Additional studies in larger and diverse patient populations including immunocompromised, pediatric, patients with active TB disease or latent tuberculosis infection are needed.
MiR-155 regulates numerous aspects of innate and adaptive immune function. This miR is induced in response to Toll-like receptor ligands, cytokines, and microbial infection. We have previously shown that miR-155 is induced in monocytes/macrophages infected with Francisella tularensis and suppresses expression of the inositol phosphatase SHIP to enhance activation of the PI3K/Akt pathway, which in turn promotes favorable responses for the host. Here we examined how miR-155 expression is regulated during infection. First, our data demonstrate that miR-155 can be induced through soluble factors of bacterial origin and not the host. Second, miR-155 induction is not a direct effect of infection and it requires NF-κB signaling to up-regulate fos/jun transcription factors. Finally, we demonstrate that the requirement for NF-κB-dependent de novo protein synthesis is globally shared by microbial ligands and live bacteria. This study provides new insight into the complex regulation of miR-155 during microbial infection.
microRNA; microbial pathogenesis; miR-155
Mycobacterium tuberculosis enhances its survival in macrophages by suppressing immune responses in part through its complex cell wall structures. Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPARγ), a nuclear receptor superfamily member, is a transcriptional factor that regulates inflammation and has high expression in alternatively activated alveolar macrophages and macrophage-derived foam cells, both cell types relevant to tuberculosis pathogenesis. In this study, we show that virulent M. tuberculosis and its cell wall mannose-capped lipoarabinomannan induce PPARγ expression through a macrophage mannose receptor-dependent pathway. When activated, PPARγ promotes IL-8 and cyclooxygenase 2 expression, a process modulated by a PPARγ agonist or antagonist. Upstream, MAPK-p38 mediates cytosolic phospholipase A2 activation, which is required for PPARγ ligand production. The induced IL-8 response mediated by mannose-capped lipoarabinomannan and the mannose receptor is independent of TLR2 and NF-κB activation. In contrast, the attenuated Mycobacterium bovis bacillus Calmette-Guérin induces less PPARγ and preferentially uses the NF-κB–mediated pathway to induce IL-8 production. Finally, PPARγ knockdown in human macrophages enhances TNF production and controls the intracellular growth of M. tuberculosis. These data identify a new molecular pathway that links engagement of the mannose receptor, an important pattern recognition receptor for M. tuberculosis, with PPARγ activation, which regulates the macrophage inflammatory response, thereby playing a role in tuberculosis pathogenesis.
Francisella tularensis contains four putative acid phosphatases that are conserved in Francisella novicida. An F. novicida quadruple mutant (AcpA, AcpB, AcpC, and Hap [ΔABCH]) is unable to escape the phagosome or survive in macrophages and is attenuated in the mouse model. We explored whether reduced survival of the ΔABCH mutant within phagocytes is related to the oxidative response by human neutrophils and macrophages. F. novicida and F. tularensis subspecies failed to stimulate reactive oxygen species production in the phagocytes, whereas the F. novicida ΔABCH strain stimulated a significant level of reactive oxygen species. The ΔABCH mutant, but not the wild-type strain, strongly colocalized with p47phox and replicated in phagocytes only in the presence of an NADPH oxidase inhibitor or within macrophages isolated from p47phox knockout mice. Finally, purified AcpA strongly dephosphorylated p47phox and p40phox, but not p67phox, in vitro. Thus, Francisella acid phosphatases play a major role in intramacrophage survival and virulence by regulating the generation of the oxidative burst in human phagocytes.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis (the causal agent of TB) has co-evolved with humans for centuries. It infects via the airborne route and is a prototypic highly adapted intracellular pathogen of macrophages. Extensive sequencing of the M. tuberculosis genome along with recent molecular phylogenetic studies is enabling us to gain insight into the biologic diversity that exists among bacterial strains that impact the pathogenesis of latent infection and disease. The majority of the M. tuberculosis cell envelope is comprised of carbohydrates and lipids, and there is increasing evidence that these microbial determinants that are readily exposed to the host immune system play critical roles in disease pathogenesis. Studies from our laboratory and others have raised the possibility that M. tuberculosis is adapting to the human host by cloaking its cell envelope molecules with terminal mannosylated (i.e. Man-α-(1→2)-Man) oligosaccharides that resemble the glycoforms of mammalian mannoproteins. These mannosylated biomolecules engage the mannose receptor (MR) on macrophages during phagocytosis and dictate the intracellular fate of M. tuberculosis by regulating formation of the unique vesicular compartment in which the bacterium survives. The MR is highly expressed on alveolar macrophages (predominant C-type lectin on human cells) and functions as a scavenger receptor to maintain the healthiness of the lung by clearing foreign particles and at the same time regulating dangerous inflammatory responses. Thus M. tuberculosis exploits MR functions to gain entry into the macrophage and survive. Key biochemical pathways and mycobacterial determinants involved in the development and maintenance of the M. tuberculosis phagosome are being identified. The phylogenetic diversity observed in M. tuberculosis strains that impact its cell wall structure together with the genetic diversity observed in human populations, including those elements that affect macrophage function, may help to explain the extraordinary evolutionary adaptation of this pathogen to the human host. Major developments in these areas are the focus of this review.
Tuberculosis; mannose-capped lipoarabinomannan; trafficking; macrophage; mannose receptor
Francisella tularensis is one of the most virulent bacteria known and a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Category A select agent. It is able to infect a variety of animals and insects and can persist in the environment, thus Francisella spp. must be able to survive in diverse environmental niches. However, F. tularensis has a surprising dearth of sensory and regulatory factors. Recent advancements in the field have identified new functions of encoded transcription factors and greatly expanded our understanding of virulence gene regulation. Here we review the current knowledge of environmental adaptation by F. tularensis, its transcriptional regulators and their relationship to animal virulence.
Francisella; transcriptional regulators; Francisella pathogenicity island; two-component regulatory systems
Due to the complexity of the immune response to a Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection, identifying new, effective therapies and vaccines to combat it has been a problematic issue. Although many advances have been made in understanding particular mechanisms involved, they have, to date, proved insufficient to provide real breakthroughs in this area of tuberculosis research. The term “Translational Systems Biology” has been formally proposed to describe the use of experimental findings combined with mathematical modeling and/or engineering principles to understand complex biological processes in an integrative fashion for the purpose of enhancing clinical practice. This opinion piece discusses the importance of using a translational systems biology approach for tuberculosis research as a means by which to go forward with the potential for significant breakthroughs to occur.
opinion; translational systems biology; mathematical modeling; tuberculosis research
Surfactant protein D (SP-D), a lectin that recognizes carbohydrates via its C-type carbohydrate recognition domains (CRDs), regulates Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.tb)–macrophage interactions via recognition of M.tb mannosylated cell wall components. SP-D binds to, agglutinates, and reduces phagocytosis and intracellular growth of M.tb. Species-specific variations in the CRD amino acid sequence contribute to carbohydrate recognition preferences and have been exploited to enhance the antimicrobial properties of SP-D in vitro. Here, we characterized the binding interaction between several wild-type and mutant SP-D neck + CRD trimeric subunits (NCRDs) and pathogenic and nonpathogenic mycobacterial species. Specific amino acid substitutions (i.e., the 343-amino-acid position) that flank the carbohydrate binding groove led to significant increases in binding of only virulent and attenuated M.tb strains and to a lesser extent M. marinum, whereas there was negligible binding to M. avium complex and M. smegmatis. Moreover, a nonconserved mutation at the critical 321-amino-acid position (involved in Ca2+ coordination) abrogated binding to M.tb and M. marinum. We further characterized the binding of NCRDs to the predominant surface-exposed mannosylated lipoglycans of the M.tb cell envelope. Results showed a binding pattern that is dependent on the nature of the side chain of the 343-amino-acid position flanking the SP-D CRD binding groove and the nature of the terminal mannosyl sugar linkages of the mycobacterial lipoglycans. We conclude that the 343 position is critical in defining the binding pattern of SP-D proteins to M.tb and its mannosylated cell envelope components.
cell envelope; mannosylated lipoarabinomannan; Mycobacterium tuberculosis; pulmonary collectin; surfactant protein D
The Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.tb) cell wall contains an important group of structurally related mannosylated lipoglycans called phosphatidyl-myo-inositol mannosides (PIMs), lipomannan (LM), and mannose-capped lipoarabinomannan (ManLAM), where the terminal α-[1→2] mannosyl structures on higher order PIMs and ManLAM have been shown to engage C-type lectins such as the macrophage mannose receptor directing M.tb phagosome maturation arrest. An important gene described in the biosynthesis of these molecules is the mannosyltransferase pimB (Rv0557). Here, we disrupted pimB in a virulent strain of M.tb. We demonstrate that the inactivation of pimB in M.tb does not abolish the production of any of its cell wall mannosylated lipoglycans; however, it results in a quantitative decrease in the ManLAM and LM content without affecting higher order PIMs. This finding indicates gene redundancy or the possibility of an alternative biosynthetic pathway that may compensate for the PimB deficiency. Furthermore, infection of human macrophages by the pimB mutant leads to an alteration in macrophage phenotype concomitant with a significant increase in the rate of macrophage death.
lipoarabinomannan; macrophage death; mannosyltransferase; Mycobacterium tuberculosis; phosphatidyl-myo-inositol mannoside
The ability of pathogenic mycobacteria to block phagosome-lysosome fusion is critical for its pathogenesis. The molecules expressed by mycobacteria that inhibit phagosome maturation and the mechanism of this inhibition have been extensively studied. Recent work has indicated that mannosylated lipoarabinomannan (ManLAM) isolated from Mycobacterium tuberculosis can function to delay phagosome-lysosome fusion and that this delay requires the interaction of ManLAM with the mannose receptor (MR). However, the molecules expressed by other pathogenic mycobacteria that function to inhibit phagosome maturation have not been well described. In the present study, we show that phagosomes containing silica beads coated with glycopeptidolipids (GPLs), a major surface component of Mycobacterium avium, showed limited acidification and delayed recruitment of late endosomal/lysosomal markers compared to those of phosphatidylcholine-coated beads. The carbohydrate component of the GPLs was required, as beads coated only with the lipopeptide core failed to delay phagosome-lysosome fusion. Moreover, the ability of GPLs to delay phagosome maturation was dependent on the macrophage expression of the MR. Using CHO cells expressing the MR, we confirmed that the GPLs bind this receptor. Finally, human monocyte-derived macrophages knocked down for MR expression showed increased M. avium phagosome-lysosome fusion relative to control cells. Together, the data indicate that GPLs can function to delay phagosome-lysosome fusion and suggest that GPLs, like ManLAM, work through the MR to mediate this activity.
Eradication of intracellular pathogenic bacteria with host-directed chemical agents has been an anticipated innovation in the treatment of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. We previously synthesized and characterized a novel small-molecule agent, AR-12, that induces autophagy and inhibits the Akt kinase in cancer cells. As both autophagy and the Akt kinase have been shown recently to play roles in the intracellular survival of several intracellular bacteria, including Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, we investigated the effect of AR-12 on the intracellular survival of Salmonella serovar Typhimurium in macrophages. Our results show that AR-12 induces autophagy in macrophages, as indicated by increased autophagosome formation, and potently inhibits the survival of serovar Typhimurium in macrophages in association with increased colocalization of intracellular bacteria with autophagosomes. Intracellular bacterial growth was partially rescued in the presence of AR-12 by the short hairpin RNA-mediated knockdown of Beclin-1 or Atg7 in macrophages. Moreover, AR-12 inhibits Akt kinase activity in infected macrophages, which we show to be important for its antibacterial effect as the enforced expression of constitutively activated Akt1 in these cells reverses the AR-12-induced inhibition of intracellular serovar Typhimurium survival. Finally, oral administration of AR-12 at 2.5 mg/kg/day to serovar Typhimurium-infected mice reduced hepatic and splenic bacterial burdens and significantly prolonged survival. These findings show that AR-12 represents a proof of principle that the survival of intracellular bacteria can be suppressed by small-molecule agents that target both innate immunity and host cell factors modulated by bacteria.
Francisella tularensis, a bacterium which causes tularemia in humans, is classified as a CDC category A bioterrorism agent. In this study, we demonstrate that celecoxib, an anti-inflammatory cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitor in clinical use, exhibits activity against a type A strain of F. tularensis (Schu S4), the live vaccine strain of F. tularensis (a type B strain), and F. novicida (“F. tularensis subsp. novicida”) directly in growth medium. This bacterial killing, however, was not noted with rofecoxib, despite its higher potency than that of celecoxib in inhibiting cyclooxygenase-2. The unique ability of celecoxib to inhibit the proliferation of F. tularensis could be pharmacologically exploited to develop novel anti-Francisella therapeutic agents, of which the proof of principle is demonstrated by compound 20, a celecoxib derivative identified through the screening of a celecoxib-based focused compound library. Compound 20 inhibited the intracellular proliferation of Francisella in macrophages without causing appreciable toxicity to these host cells. Together, these data support the translational potential of compound 20 for the further development of novel, potent anti-Francisella agents.
The intracellular Gram-negative bacterium Francisella tularensis causes the disease tularemia and is known for its ability to subvert host immune responses. Previous work from our laboratory identified the PI3K/Akt pathway and SHIP as critical modulators of host resistance to Francisella. Here, we show that SHIP expression is strongly down-regulated in monocytes and macrophages following infection with F. tularensis novicida (F.n.). To account for this negative regulation we explored the possibility that microRNAs (miRs) that target SHIP may be induced during infection. There is one miR that is predicted to target SHIP, miR-155. We tested for induction and found that F.n. induced miR-155 both in primary monocytes/macrophages and in vivo. Using luciferase reporter assays we confirmed that miR-155 led to down-regulation of SHIP, showing that it specifically targets the SHIP 3′UTR. Further experiments showed that miR-155 and BIC, the gene that encodes miR-155, were induced as early as four hours post-infection in primary human monocytes. This expression was dependent on TLR2/MyD88 and did not require inflammasome activation. Importantly, miR-155 positively regulated pro-inflammatory cytokine release in human monocytes infected with Francisella. In sharp contrast, we found that the highly virulent type A SCHU S4 strain of Francisella tularensis (F.t.) led to a significantly lower miR-155 response than the less virulent F.n. Hence, F.n. induces miR-155 expression and leads to down-regulation of SHIP, resulting in enhanced pro-inflammatory responses. However, impaired miR-155 induction by SCHU S4 may help explain the lack of both SHIP down-regulation and pro-inflammatory response and may account for the virulence of Type A Francisella.
Autophagy has been shown recently to play an important role in the intracellular survival of several pathogenic bacteria. In this study, we investigated the effect of a novel small-molecule autophagy-inducing agent, AR-12, on the survival of Francisella tularensis, the causative bacterium of tularemia in humans and a potential bioterrorism agent, in macrophages.
Methods and results
Our results show that AR-12 induces autophagy in THP-1 macrophages, as indicated by increased autophagosome formation, and potently inhibits the intracellular survival of F. tularensis (type A strain, Schu S4) and F. novicida in macrophages in association with increased bacterial co-localization with autophagosomes. The effect of AR-12 on intracellular F. novicida was fully reversed in the presence of the autophagy inhibitor, 3-methyl adenine or the lysosome inhibitor, chloroquine. Intracellular F. novicida were not susceptible to the inhibitory activity of AR-12 added at 12 h post-infection in THP-1 macrophages, and this lack of susceptibility was independent of the intracellular location of bacteria.
Together, AR-12 represents a proof-of-principle that intracellular F. tularensis can be eradicated by small-molecule agents that target innate immunity.
The bacterium Francisella tularensis (Ft) is a potential weapon of bioterrorism when aerosolized. Macrophage infection is necessary for disease progression and efficient phagocytosis by human macrophages requires serum opsonization by complement. Microbial complement activation leads to surface deposition of a highly regulated protein complex resulting in opsonization or membrane lysis. The nature of complement component C3 deposition, i.e., C3b (opsonization and lysis) or C3bi (opsonization only) fragment deposition, is central to the outcome of activation. In this study, we examine the mechanisms of Ft resistance to complement-mediated lysis, C3 component deposition on the Ft surface, and complement activation. Upon incubation in fresh nonimmune human serum, Schu S4 (Ft subsp. tularensis), Fn (Ft subsp. novicida), and LVS (Ft subsp. holarctica live vaccine strain) were resistant to complement-mediated lysis, but LVSG and LVSR (LVS strains altered in surface carbohydrate structures) were susceptible. C3 deposition, however, occurred on all strains. Complement-susceptible strains had markedly increased C3 fragment deposition, including the persistent presence of C3b compared with C3bi, which indicates that C3b inactivation results in survival of complement-resistant strains. C1q, an essential component of the classical activation pathway, was necessary for lysis of complement-susceptible strains and optimal C3 deposition on all strains. Finally, use of Francisella LPS mutants confirmed O Ag as a major regulator of complement resistance. These data provide evidence that pathogenic Francisella activate complement, but are resistant to complement-mediated lysis in part due to limited C3 deposition, rapid conversion of surface-bound C3b to C3bi, and the presence of LPS O Ag.
Francisella tularensis infects macrophages and escapes phago-lysosomal fusion to replicate within the host cytosol, resulting in host cell apoptosis. Here we show that the Fas-mediated death pathway is activated in infected cells and correlates with escape of the bacterium from the phagosome and the bacterial burden. Our studies also demonstrate that constitutive activation of Akt, or deletion of SHIP, promotes phago-lysosomal fusion and limits bacterial burden in the host cytosol, and the subsequent induction of Fas expression and cell death. Finally, we show that phagosomal escape/intracellular bacterial burden regulate activation of the transcription factors sp1/sp3, leading to Fas expression and cell death. These data identify for the first time host cell signaling pathways that regulate the phagosomal escape of Francisella, leading to the induction of Fas and subsequent host cell death.
Tularemia is a zoonotic disease caused by the Gram-negative intracellular pathogen Francisella tularensis. These bacteria evade phagolysosomal fusion, escape from the phagosome and replicate in the host cell cytoplasm. IFNγ has been shown to suppress the intra-macrophage growth of Francisella through both nitric oxide-dependent and -independent pathways. Since Francisella is known to subvert host immune responses, we hypothesized that this pathogen could interfere with IFNγ signaling. Here, we report that infection with Francisella suppresses IFNγ-induced STAT1 expression and phosphorylation in both human and murine mononuclear phagocytes. This suppressive effect of Francisella is independent of phagosomal escape or replication and is mediated by a heat-stable and constitutively-expressed bacterial factor. An analysis of the molecular mechanism of STAT1 inhibition indicated that expression of SOCS3, an established negative regulator of IFNγ signaling, is highly up-regulated during infection and suppresses STAT1 phosphorylation. Functional analyses revealed that this interference with IFNγ signaling is accompanied by the suppression of IP-10 production and iNOS induction resulting in increased intracellular bacterial survival. Importantly, the suppressive effect on IFNγ-mediated host cell protection is most effective when IFNγ is added post infection, suggesting that the bacteria establish a permissive environment within the host cell.
Francisella; IFNγ; SOCS3; immune evasion