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1.  NOD2 Stimulation by Staphylococcus aureus-Derived Peptidoglycan Is Boosted by Toll-Like Receptor 2 Costimulation with Lipoproteins in Dendritic Cells 
Infection and Immunity  2014;82(11):4681-4688.
Mutations in the nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain-containing protein 2 (NOD2) play an important role in the pathogenesis of Crohn's disease. NOD2 is an intracellular pattern recognition receptor (PRR) that senses bacterial peptidoglycan (PGN) structures, e.g., muramyl dipeptide (MDP). Here we focused on the effect of more-cross-linked, polymeric PGN fragments (PGNpol) in the activation of the innate immune system. In this study, the effect of combined NOD2 and Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2) stimulation was examined compared to single stimulation of the NOD2 receptor alone. PGNpol species derived from a lipoprotein-containing Staphylococcus aureus strain (SA113) and a lipoprotein-deficient strain (SA113 Δlgt) were isolated. While PGNpol constitutes a combined NOD2 and TLR2 ligand, lipoprotein-deficient PGNpolΔlgt leads to activation of the immune system only via the NOD2 receptor. Murine bone marrow-derived dendritic cells (BMDCs), J774 cells, and Mono Mac 6 (MM6) cells were stimulated with these ligands. Cytokines (interleukin-6 [IL-6], IL-12p40, and tumor necrosis factor alpha [TNF-α]) as well as DC activation and maturation parameters were measured. Stimulation with PGNpolΔlgt did not lead to enhanced cytokine secretion or DC activation and maturation. However, stimulation with PGNpol led to strong cytokine secretion and subsequent DC maturation. These results were confirmed in MM6 and J774 cells. We showed that the NOD2-mediated activation of DCs with PGNpol was dependent on TLR2 costimulation. Therefore, signaling via both receptors leads to a more potent activation of the immune system than that with stimulation via each receptor alone.
PMCID: PMC4249339  PMID: 25156723
2.  Clinical and treatment-related risk factors for nosocomial colonisation with extensively drug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa in a haematological patient population: a matched case control study 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2014;14:650.
This study aimed to investigate risk factors for colonisation with extensively drug-resistant P. aeruginosa (XDR-PA) in immunocompromised patients and to build a clinical risk score (CRS) based on these results.
We conducted a matched case–control study with 31 cases and 93 controls (1:3). Cases were colonised with XDR-PA during hospitalisation. Independent risk factors were determined using a three step conditional logistic regression procedure. A CRS was built with respect to the corresponding risk fraction of each risk factor, and its discriminatory power was estimated by receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis.
The presence of a central venous catheter (OR 7.41, P = 0.0008), the presence of a urinary catheter (OR 21.04, P < 0.0001), CRP > 10 mg/dl (OR 7.36, P = 0.0015), and ciprofloxacin administration (OR 5.53, P = 0.025) were independent risk factors. The CRS exhibited a high discriminatory power, defining a high risk population with an approximately fourteen times greater risk for XDR-PA colonisation.
Unnecessary use of antibiotics, particularly ciprofloxacin should be avoided, and a high standard of infection control measures must be achieved when using medical devices. A CRS can be used for adaptation of the active screening culture policy to the local setting.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12879-014-0650-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4266216  PMID: 25490897
XDR; Predictors of colonisation; IMP carbapenemase; VIM carbapenemase; Clinical risk score; Clinical score construction; Matched case–control study; Conditional logistic regression
3.  Detection of Pneumonia Associated Pathogens Using a Prototype Multiplexed Pneumonia Test in Hospitalized Patients with Severe Pneumonia 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e110566.
Severe pneumonia remains an important cause of morbidity and mortality. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) has been shown to be more sensitive than current standard microbiological methods – particularly in patients with prior antibiotic treatment – and therefore, may improve the accuracy of microbiological diagnosis for hospitalized patients with pneumonia. Conventional detection techniques and multiplex PCR for 14 typical bacterial pneumonia-associated pathogens were performed on respiratory samples collected from adult hospitalized patients enrolled in a prospective multi-center study. Patients were enrolled from March until September 2012. A total of 739 fresh, native samples were eligible for analysis, of which 75 were sputa, 421 aspirates, and 234 bronchial lavages. 276 pathogens were detected by microbiology for which a valid PCR result was generated (positive or negative detection result by Curetis prototype system). Among these, 120 were identified by the prototype assay, 50 pathogens were not detected. Overall performance of the prototype for pathogen identification was 70.6% sensitivity (95% confidence interval (CI) lower bound: 63.3%, upper bound: 76.9%) and 95.2% specificity (95% CI lower bound: 94.6%, upper bound: 95.7%). Based on the study results, device cut-off settings were adjusted for future series production. The overall performance with the settings of the CE series production devices was 78.7% sensitivity (95% CI lower bound: 72.1%) and 96.6% specificity (95% CI lower bound: 96.1%). Time to result was 5.2 hours (median) for the prototype test and 43.5 h for standard-of-care. The Pneumonia Application provides a rapid and moderately sensitive assay for the detection of pneumonia-causing pathogens with minimal hands-on time.
Trial Registration
Deutsches Register Klinischer Studien (DRKS) DRKS00005684
PMCID: PMC4232251  PMID: 25397673
4.  A Nasal Epithelial Receptor for Staphylococcus aureus WTA Governs Adhesion to Epithelial Cells and Modulates Nasal Colonization 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(5):e1004089.
Nasal colonization is a major risk factor for S. aureus infections. The mechanisms responsible for colonization are still not well understood and involve several factors on the host and the bacterial side. One key factor is the cell wall teichoic acid (WTA) of S. aureus, which governs direct interactions with nasal epithelial surfaces. We report here the first receptor for the cell wall glycopolymer WTA on nasal epithelial cells. In several assay systems this type F-scavenger receptor, termed SREC-I, bound WTA in a charge dependent manner and mediated adhesion to nasal epithelial cells in vitro. The impact of WTA and SREC-I interaction on epithelial adhesion was especially pronounced under shear stress, which resembles the conditions found in the nasal cavity. Most importantly, we demonstrate here a key role of the WTA-receptor interaction in a cotton rat model of nasal colonization. When we inhibited WTA mediated adhesion with a SREC-I antibody, nasal colonization in the animal model was strongly reduced at the early onset of colonization. More importantly, colonization stayed low over an extended period of 6 days. Therefore we propose targeting of this glycopolymer-receptor interaction as a novel strategy to prevent or control S. aureus nasal colonization.
Author Summary
About 20% of the human population is colonized by Staphylococcus aureus. The reservoir of S. aureus is mainly the human nose. Usually, colonization does not lead to infection and is therefore without symptoms. However, when hospitalized patients exhibit a suppressed immune system, they are at risk of getting infected by their own nasal S. aureus strain. Therefore, it is important to understand the events and mechanisms underlying colonization. Until now S. aureus nasal colonization is only partially understood. One bacterial key factor is a sugar polymer of S. aureus, termed cell wall teichoic acid (WTA), which is involved in S. aureus adhesion to cellular surfaces in the inner part of the nasal cavity. We show here that a receptor-protein, which is expressed on such cells, binds WTA and is thereby involved in adhesion of S. aureus to nasal cells. This mechanism has a strong impact on nasal colonization in an animal model that resembles the situation in the human nose. Most importantly, inhibition of WTA mediated adhesion strongly reduces nasal colonization in the animal model. Therefore we propose that targeting of this glycopolymer-receptor interaction could serve as a novel strategy to control S. aureus nasal colonization.
PMCID: PMC4006915  PMID: 24788600
5.  Evaluation of Mycobacterium tuberculosis drug susceptibility in clinical specimens from Nigeria using genotype MTBDRplus and MTBDRsl assays 
The incidence of tuberculosis (TB) and especially multidrug-resistant TB (MDR) continues to increase alarmingly worldwide, and reliable and fast diagnosis of MDR is essential for the adequate treatment of patients. In contrast to the standard culture methods, nucleid acid amplification tests (NAATs) provide information about presence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTBC) DNA and a potential resistance pattern within hours. We analyzed specimens of 110 patients from Nigeria comparing culture-based drug susceptibility testing (DST) to NAAT assays detecting isoniazid (INH), rifampicin (RMP) (GenoType MTBDRplus), and ethambutol (EMB) (GenoType MTBDRsl) resistance. Compared to DST, the GenoType MTBDRplus and MTBDRsl showed a specificity of 100% (86.3–100) and a sensitivity of 86% (42.1–99.6%) for detection of INH and a specificity of 100% (86.3–100) and a sensitivity of 83% (35.9–99.6%) for detection of RMP, and a sensitivity 100% (47.8–100%) for EMB resistance. However, in two strains, the NAAT assays provided false susceptible results as the mutations causing resistance were in genomic regions not covered by the probes of the GenoType MTBDRplus assay. We show that, in combination to DST, application of the GenoType MTBDRplus and GenoType MTBDRsl assays might be a useful additional tool to allow a rapid and safe diagnosis of MDR and extensively drug-resistant (XDR) MTBC.
PMCID: PMC3838540  PMID: 24294494
drug susceptibility testing; GenoType; Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex; Nigeria
6.  Effect of metallo-β-lactamase production and multidrug resistance on clinical outcomes in patients with Pseudomonas aeruginosa bloodstream infection: a retrospective cohort study 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2013;13:515.
Blood stream infections (BSI) with Pseudomonas aeruginosa lead to poor clinical outcomes. The worldwide emergence and spread of metallo-β-lactamase (MBL) producing, often multidrug-resistant organisms may further aggravate this problem. Our study aimed to investigate the effect of MBL-producing P. aeruginosa (MBL-PA) and various other resistance phenotypes on clinical outcomes.
A retrospective cohort study was conducted in three German hospitals. Medical files from 2006 until 2012 were studied, and a number of 113 patients with P. aeruginosa BSI were included. The presence of VIM, IMP and NDM genes was detected using molecular techniques. Genetic relatedness was assessed through multilocus sequence typing (MLST). The effect of resistance patterns or MBL production on clinical outcomes was investigated by using multivariate Cox regression models.
In-hospital mortality was significantly higher in patients with MBL-PA and multidrug-resistant P. aeruginosa. However, neither BSI with MBL-PA nor BSI with various resistance phenotypes of P. aeruginosa were independently associated with mortality or length of hospital stay. In multivariate models, the SAPS II score (HR 1.046), appropriate definitive treatment (HR range 0.25-0.26), and cardiovascular disease (HR range 0.44-0.46) were independent predictors of mortality. Concomitant infections were associated with an excess length of stay (HR < 1).
Medication with appropriate antimicrobial agents at any time during the course of infection remains the key for improving clinical outcomes in patients with P. aeruginosa BSI and should be combined with a strict implementation of routine infection control measures.
PMCID: PMC3818928  PMID: 24176052
Bacteremia; Antimicrobial therapy; Mortality; Prognosis; Length of stay; MBL
7.  Time Series Analysis as a Tool To Predict the Impact of Antimicrobial Restriction in Antibiotic Stewardship Programs Using the Example of Multidrug-Resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa 
The association between antimicrobial consumption and resistance in nonfermentative Gram-negative bacteria is well-known. Antimicrobial restriction, implemented in clinical routines by antibiotic stewardship programs (ASPs), is considered a means to reduce resistance rates. Whether and how antimicrobial restriction can accomplish this goal is still unknown though. This leads to an element of uncertainty when designing strategies for ASPs. From January 2002 until December 2011, an observational study was performed at the University Hospital Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany, to investigate the association between antimicrobial use and resistance rates in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Transfer function models were used to determine such associations and to simulate antimicrobial restriction strategies. Various positive associations between antimicrobial consumption and resistance were observed in our setting. Surprisingly, impact estimations of different antimicrobial restriction strategies revealed relatively low intervention expenses to effectively attenuate the observed increase in resistance. For example, a simulated intervention of an annual 4% reduction in the use of meropenem over 3 years from 2009 until 2011 yielded a 62.5% attenuation (95% confidence interval, 15% to 110%) in the rising trend of multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa (three- and four-class-resistant P. aeruginosa [34MRGN-PA]). Time series analysis models derived from past data may be a tool to predict the outcome of antimicrobial restriction strategies, and could be used to design ASPs.
PMCID: PMC3623362  PMID: 23380719
8.  Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cells Are Crucial in Bifidobacterium adolescentis-Mediated Inhibition of Yersinia enterocolitica Infection 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e71338.
In industrialized countries bacterial intestinal infections are commonly caused by enteropathogenic Enterobacteriaceae. The interaction of the microbiota with the host immune system determines the adequacy of an appropriate response against pathogens. In this study we addressed whether the probiotic Bifidobacterium adolescentis is protective during intestinal Yersinia enterocolitica infection. Female C57BL/6 mice were fed with B. adolescentis, infected with Yersinia enterocolitica, or B. adolescentis fed and subsequently infected with Yersinia enterocolitica. B. adolescentis fed and Yersinia infected mice were protected from Yersinia infection as indicated by a significantly reduced weight loss and splenic Yersinia load when compared to Yersinia infected mice. Moreover, protection from infection was associated with increased intestinal plasmacytoid dendritic cell and regulatory T-cell frequencies. Plasmacytoid dendritic cell function was investigated using depletion experiments by injecting B. adolescentis fed, Yersinia infected C57BL/6 mice with anti-mouse PDCA-1 antibody, to deplete plasmacytoid dendritic cells, or respective isotype control. The B. adolescentis-mediated protection from Yersinia dissemination to the spleen was abrogated after plasmacytoid dendritic cell depletion indicating a crucial function for pDC in control of intestinal Yersinia infection. We suggest that feeding of B. adolescentis modulates the intestinal immune system in terms of increased plasmacytoid dendritic cell and regulatory T-cell frequencies, which might account for the B. adolescentis-mediated protection from Yersinia enterocolitica infection.
PMCID: PMC3748105  PMID: 23977019
9.  Correction: Intimin and Invasin Export Their C-Terminus to the Bacterial Cell Surface Using an Inverse Mechanism Compared to Classical Autotransport 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):10.1371/annotation/cb7e47be-dd4b-46cd-b4e5-18b7077f64df.
PMCID: PMC3525673
10.  Intimin and Invasin Export Their C-Terminus to the Bacterial Cell Surface Using an Inverse Mechanism Compared to Classical Autotransport 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e47069.
Invasin and intimin are major virulence factors of enteropathogenic Yersiniae and Escherichia coli, mediating invasion into and intimate adherence to host cells, respectively. Several studies have hinted that extracellular portion of these homologous proteins might be exported via an autotransport mechanism, but rigorous experimental proof has been lacking. Here, we present a topology model for invasin and intimin, consistent with the hypothesis that the N-terminal β-barrel domain acts as a translocation pore to secrete the C-terminal passenger domain. We confirmed this topology model by inserting epitope tags into the loops of the β-barrel. We further show that obstructing the pore of β-barrel hinders the export of the passenger domain. As for classical autotransport, the biogenesis of invasin and intimin is dependent on the Bam complex and the periplasmic chaperone SurA, whereas the chaperone/protease DegP is involved in quality control. However, compared to classical autotransporters (Type Va secretion), the domain structure of intimin and invasin is inverted. We conclude that proteins of the intimin and invasin family constitute a novel group of autotransported proteins, and propose that this class of autotransporters be termed Type Ve secretion.
PMCID: PMC3467248  PMID: 23056583
11.  Quorum sensing in the probiotic bacterium Escherichia coli Nissle 1917 (Mutaflor) – evidence that furanosyl borate diester (AI-2) is influencing the cytokine expression in the DSS colitis mouse model 
Gut Pathogens  2012;4:8.
“Quorum sensing” (QS) is the phenomenon which allows single bacterial cells to measure the concentration of bacterial signal molecules. Two principle different QS systems are known, the Autoinducer 1 system (AI-1) for the intraspecies communication using different Acyl-homoserine lactones (AHL) and AI-2 for the interspecies communication. Aim of this study was to investigate QS of Escherichia coli Nissle 1917 (Mutaflor).
While E. coli Nissle is producing AI-2 in a density dependent manner, no AI-1 was produced. To study the effect of AI-2 in the DSS (dextran sulphate sodium) induced mouse model of acute colitis, we silenced the corresponding gene luxS by intron insertion. The mutant bacterium E. coli Nissle::luxS was equally effective in colonizing the colon and the mutation turned out to be 100% stable during the course of the experiment. Isolating RNA from the colon mucosa and performing semiquantitative RT PCR, we were able to show that the expression of the pro-inflammatory cytokine IFN-y was suppressed in mice being infected with the E. coli Nissle wild type. Mice infected with the E. coli Nissle::luxS mutant showed a suppressed expression of IL-10 compared to uninfected mice, while the expression of the pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-6 and TNF-α was higher in these mice. The expression of mBD-1 was suppressed in mice being infected with the mutant in comparison to the mice not infected or infected with the wild type. No differences were seen in the histological examination of the colon sections in the different groups of mice.
E. coli Nissle is producing AI-2 molecules, which are influencing the expression of cytokines in the mucosa of the colon in the DSS mice. However, if QS has a direct influence on the probiotic properties of E. coli Nissle remains to be elucidated.
PMCID: PMC3480846  PMID: 22862922
Quorum sensing; Escherichia coli Nissle; Autoinducer-2; DSS colitis; Cytokines
12.  Yersinia enterocolitica YopT and Clostridium difficile Toxin B Induce Expression of GILZ in Epithelial Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e40730.
Glucocorticoid induced-leucine zipper (GILZ) has been shown to be induced in cells by different stimuli such as glucocorticoids, IL-10 or deprivation of IL-2. GILZ has anti-inflammatory properties and may be involved in signalling modulating apoptosis. Herein we demonstrate that wildtype Yersinia enterocolitica which carry the pYV plasmid upregulated GILZ mRNA levels and protein expression in epithelial cells. Infection of HeLa cells with different Yersinia mutant strains revealed that the protease activity of YopT, which cleaves the membrane-bound form of Rho GTPases was sufficient to induce GILZ expression. Similarly, Clostridium difficile toxin B, another bacterial inhibitor of Rho GTPases induced GILZ expression. YopT and toxin B both increased transcriptional activity of the GILZ promoter in HeLa cells. GILZ expression could not be linked to the inactivation of an individual Rho GTPase by these toxins. However, forced expression of RhoA and RhoB decreased basal GILZ promoter activity. Furthermore, MAPK activation proved necessary for profound GILZ induction by toxin B. Promoter studies and gel shift analyses defined binding of upstream stimulatory factor (USF) 1 and 2 to a canonical c-Myc binding site (E-box) in the GILZ promoter as a crucial step of its trans-activation. In addition we could show that USF-1 and USF-2 are essential for basal as well as toxin B induced GILZ expression. These findings define a novel way of GILZ promoter trans-activation mediated by bacterial toxins and differentiate it from those mediated by dexamethasone or deprivation of IL-2.
PMCID: PMC3392236  PMID: 22792400
13.  Role of CD40 ligation in dendritic cell semimaturation 
BMC Immunology  2012;13:22.
DC are among the first antigen presenting cells encountering bacteria at mucosal surfaces, and play an important role in maintenance of regular homeostasis in the intestine. Upon stimulation DC undergo activation and maturation and as initiators of T cell responses they have the capacity to stimulate naïve T cells. However, stimulation of naïve murine DC with B. vulgatus or LPS at low concentration drives DC to a semimature (sm) state with low surface expression of activation-markers and a reduced capacity to activate T-cells. Additionally, semimature DC are nonresponsive to subsequent TLR stimulation in terms of maturation, TNF-α but not IL-6 production. Ligation of CD40 is an important mechanism in enhancing DC maturation, function and capacity to activate T-cells. We investigated whether the DC semimaturation can be overcome by CD40 ligation.
Upon CD40 ligation smDC secreted IL-12p40 but not the bioactive heterodimer IL-12p70. Additionally, CD40 ligation of smDC resulted in an increased production of IL-6 but not in an increased expression of CD40. Analysis of the phosphorylation pattern of MAP kinases showed that in smDC the p38 phosphorylation induced by CD40 ligation is inhibited. In contrast, phosphorylation of ERK upon CD40 ligation was independent of the DC maturation state.
Our data show that the semimature differentiation state of DC can not be overcome by CD40 ligation. We suggest that the inability of CD40 ligation in overcoming DC semimaturation might contribute to the tolerogenic phenotype of semimature DC and at least partially account for maintenance of intestinal immune homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC3485177  PMID: 22537317
Dendritic cells; CD40 ligation; Maturation; Cytokine; MAP Kinase; Homoeostasis; T-cell
14.  Depletion of Dendritic Cells Enhances Innate Anti-Bacterial Host Defense through Modulation of Phagocyte Homeostasis 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(2):e1002552.
Dendritic cells (DCs) as professional antigen-presenting cells play an important role in the initiation and modulation of the adaptive immune response. However, their role in the innate immune response against bacterial infections is not completely defined. Here we have analyzed the role of DCs and their impact on the innate anti-bacterial host defense in an experimental infection model of Yersinia enterocolitica (Ye). We used CD11c-diphtheria toxin (DT) mice to deplete DCs prior to severe infection with Ye. DC depletion significantly increased animal survival after Ye infection. The bacterial load in the spleen of DC-depleted mice was significantly lower than that of control mice throughout the infection. DC depletion was accompanied by an increase in the serum levels of CXCL1, G-CSF, IL-1α, and CCL2 and an increase in the numbers of splenic phagocytes. Functionally, splenocytes from DC-depleted mice exhibited an increased bacterial killing capacity compared to splenocytes from control mice. Cellular studies further showed that this was due to an increased production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) by neutrophils. Adoptive transfer of neutrophils from DC-depleted mice into control mice prior to Ye infection reduced the bacterial load to the level of Ye-infected DC-depleted mice, suggesting that the increased number of phagocytes with additional ROS production account for the decreased bacterial load. Furthermore, after incubation with serum from DC-depleted mice splenocytes from control mice increased their bacterial killing capacity, most likely due to enhanced ROS production by neutrophils, indicating that serum factors from DC-depleted mice account for this effect. In summary, we could show that DC depletion triggers phagocyte accumulation in the spleen and enhances their anti-bacterial killing capacity upon bacterial infection.
Author Summary
Dendritic cells (DCs) are professional antigen-presenting cells playing a crucial role in the initiation of T-cell responses to combat infection. DCs adapt their immune response according to the type of pathogen. For example, in response to intracellular bacteria, DCs produce IL-12, thereby initiating Th1 polarization, whereas in response to extracellular parasites or extracellular bacteria, DCs instruct Th2 or Th17 polarization, respectively. Nevertheless, their role in innate immunity is less well understood. To address this, we studied the role of DCs upon infection with the Gram-negative enteropathogenic bacteria Yersinia enterocolitica (Ye) and used a mouse model to deplete DCs. We found that DCs have an unexpected role during severe infection as depletion of these cells resulted in better outcome of infection as well as less bacterial load. We also found that DC depletion increased the number of phagocytes with improved anti-bacterial capacity in the spleen. Our study provides new insights into the role of DCs in innate immune response upon bacterial infection and points towards a complex interaction between DCs and phagocyte homeostasis. DC alteration during infection might also be an interesting target for immunotherapy in the future to guide the outcome of infection.
PMCID: PMC3285606  PMID: 22383883
15.  Mitochondria can recognize and assemble fragments of a β-barrel structure 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2011;22(10):1638-1647.
The signal that directs newly synthesized mitochondrial β-barrel proteins from the cytosol to the organelle is poorly defined. The findings of this study demonstrate that, rather than a linear sequence, the structural information in four β-strands is sufficient for the mitochondria to recognize and assemble β-barrel protein.
β-barrel proteins are found in the outer membranes of eukaryotic organelles of endosymbiotic origin as well as in the outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria. Precursors of mitochondrial β-barrel proteins are synthesized in the cytosol and have to be targeted to the organelle. Currently, the signal that assures their specific targeting to mitochondria is poorly defined. To characterize the structural features needed for specific mitochondrial targeting and to test whether a full β-barrel structure is required, we expressed in yeast cells the β-barrel domain of the trimeric autotransporter Yersinia adhesin A (YadA). Trimeric autotransporters are found only in prokaryotes, where they are anchored to the outer membrane by a single 12-stranded β-barrel structure to which each monomer is contributing four β-strands. Importantly, we found that YadA is solely localized to the mitochondrial outer membrane, where it exists in a native trimeric conformation. These findings demonstrate that, rather than a linear sequence or a complete β-barrel structure, four β-strands are sufficient for the mitochondria to recognize and assemble a β-barrel protein. Remarkably, the evolutionary origin of mitochondria from bacteria enables them to import and assemble even proteins belonging to a class that is absent in eukaryotes.
PMCID: PMC3093317  PMID: 21460184
16.  Safety of Probiotic Escherichia coli Strain Nissle 1917 Depends on Intestinal Microbiota and Adaptive Immunity of the Host▿  
Infection and Immunity  2010;78(7):3036-3046.
Probiotics are viable microorganisms that are increasingly used for treatment of a variety of diseases. Occasionally, however, probiotics may have adverse clinical effects, including septicemia. Here we examined the role of the intestinal microbiota and the adaptive immune system in preventing translocation of probiotics (e.g., Escherichia coli Nissle). We challenged C57BL/6J mice raised under germfree conditions (GF-raised C57BL/6J mice) and Rag1−/− mice raised under germfree conditions (GF-raised Rag1−/− mice) and under specific-pathogen-free conditions (SPF-raised Rag1−/− mice) with probiotic E. coli strain Nissle 1917, strain Nissle 1917 mutants, the commensal strain E. coli mpk, or Bacteroides vulgatus mpk. Additionally, we reconstituted Rag1−/− mice with CD4+ T cells. E. coli translocation and dissemination and the mortality of mice were assessed. In GF-raised Rag1−/− mice, but not in SPF-raised Rag1−/− mice or GF-raised C57BL/6J mice, oral challenge with E. coli strain Nissle 1917, but not oral challenge with E. coli mpk, resulted in translocation and dissemination. The mortality rate was significantly higher for E. coli strain Nissle 1917-challenged GF-raised Rag1−/− mice (100%; P < 0.001) than for E. coli strain Nissle 1917-challenged SPF-raised Rag1−/− mice (0%) and GF-raised C57BL/6J mice (0%). Translocation of and mortality due to strain E. coli Nissle 1917 in GF-raised Rag1−/− mice were prevented when mice were reconstituted with T cells prior to strain E. coli Nissle 1917 challenge, but not when mice were reconstituted with T cells after E. coli strain Nissle 1917 challenge. Cocolonization experiments revealed that E. coli mpk could not prevent translocation of strain E. coli Nissle 1917. Moreover, we demonstrated that neither lipopolysaccharide structure nor flagella play a role in E. coli strain Nissle 1917 translocation and dissemination. Our results suggest that if both the microbiota and adaptive immunity are defective, translocation across the intestinal epithelium and dissemination of the probiotic E. coli strain Nissle 1917 may occur and have potentially severe adverse effects. Future work should define the possibly related molecular factors that promote probiotic functions, fitness, and facultative pathogenicity.
PMCID: PMC2897399  PMID: 20421387
17.  Immune Evasion by Yersinia enterocolitica: Differential Targeting of Dendritic Cell Subpopulations In Vivo 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(11):e1001212.
CD4+ T cells are essential for the control of Yersinia enterocolitica (Ye) infection in mice. Ye can inhibit dendritic cell (DC) antigen uptake and degradation, maturation and subsequently T-cell activation in vitro. Here we investigated the effects of Ye infection on splenic DCs and T-cell proliferation in an experimental mouse infection model. We found that OVA-specific CD4+ T cells had a reduced potential to proliferate when stimulated with OVA after infection with Ye compared to control mice. Additionally, proliferation of OVA-specific CD4+ T cells was markedly reduced when cultured with splenic CD8α+ DCs from Ye infected mice in the presence of OVA. In contrast, T-cell proliferation was not impaired in cultures with CD4+ or CD4−CD8α− DCs isolated from Ye infected mice. However, OVA uptake and degradation as well as cytokine production were impaired in CD8α+ DCs, but not in CD4+ and CD4−CD8α− DCs after Ye infection. Pathogenicity factors (Yops) from Ye were most frequently injected into CD8α+ DCs, resulting in less MHC class II and CD86 expression than on non-injected CD8α+ DCs. Three days post infection with Ye the number of splenic CD8α+ and CD4+ DCs was reduced by 50% and 90%, respectively. The decreased number of DC subsets, which was dependent on TLR4 and TRIF signaling, was the result of a faster proliferation and suppressed de novo DC generation. Together, we show that Ye infection negatively regulates the stimulatory capacity of some but not all splenic DC subpopulations in vivo. This leads to differential antigen uptake and degradation, cytokine production, cell loss, and cell death rates in various DC subpopulations. The data suggest that these effects might be caused directly by injection of Yops into DCs and indirectly by affecting the homeostasis of CD4+ and CD8α+ DCs. These events may contribute to reduced T-cell proliferation and immune evasion of Ye.
Author Summary
Dendritic cells (DCs) are crucial in promoting immune responses against pathogens. Mouse DCs consist of different subpopulations but their role in immunity to pathogens and immune evasion is largely unclear. The enteric pathogen Yersinia enterocolitica (Ye) was shown to evade DC functions in bone marrow-derived DCs in vitro inhibiting antigen uptake and degradation, maturation and subsequently T-cell activation. However, it is controversial whether and, if so, which virulence factors of Ye (e.g. Yops) contribute to immune evasion of DCs in vivo. Using an experimental mouse infection model and a β-lactamase reporter system to track Yop injection into host cells we demonstrate here for the first time that distinct DC subpopulations are affected by Ye infection in vivo in terms of antigen uptake and degradation, cytokine production, and T-cell proliferation. Moreover, Ye infection causes the loss of 90% of CD11chiCD4+ DCs in a TLR4- and TRIF-signaling dependent manner. These data combined with results reported from infection with e.g. Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Salmonella typhimurium, or Escherichia coli suggest that the response of DCs to bacterial infections is manifold, reflecting the diversity of DC subpopulations, pathogenicity factors, and life styles of the pathogens.
PMCID: PMC2991265  PMID: 21124820
18.  Yersinia enterocolitica Targets Cells of the Innate and Adaptive Immune System by Injection of Yops in a Mouse Infection Model 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(8):e1000551.
Yersinia enterocolitica (Ye) evades the immune system of the host by injection of Yersinia outer proteins (Yops) via a type three secretion system into host cells. In this study, a reporter system comprising a YopE-β-lactamase hybrid protein and a fluorescent staining sensitive to β-lactamase cleavage was used to track Yop injection in cell culture and in an experimental Ye mouse infection model. Experiments with GD25, GD25-β1A, and HeLa cells demonstrated that β1-integrins and RhoGTPases play a role for Yop injection. As demonstrated by infection of splenocyte suspensions in vitro, injection of Yops appears to occur randomly into all types of leukocytes. In contrast, upon infection of mice, Yop injection was detected in 13% of F4/80+, 11% of CD11c+, 7% of CD49b+, 5% of Gr1+ cells, 2.3% of CD19+, and 2.6% of CD3+ cells. Taking the different abundance of these cell types in the spleen into account, the highest total number of Yop-injected cells represents B cells, particularly CD19+CD21+CD23+ follicular B cells, followed by neutrophils, dendritic cells, and macrophages, suggesting a distinct cellular tropism of Ye. Yop-injected B cells displayed a significantly increased expression of CD69 compared to non-Yop-injected B cells, indicating activation of these cells by Ye. Infection of IFN-γR (receptor)- and TNFRp55-deficient mice resulted in increased numbers of Yop-injected spleen cells for yet unknown reasons. The YopE-β-lactamase hybrid protein reporter system provides new insights into the modulation of host cell and immune responses by Ye Yops.
Author Summary
An important strategy of Yersinia enterocolitica (Ye) to suppress the immune defense is to inject bacterial proteins (Yersinia outer proteins, Yops) after cell contact directly into host cells, which affects their functions. However, tracking of cells in which Yop injection occurred has only been described for Yersinia pestis thus far. We adapted the described reporter system specifically for the use of infections with Ye and report the usefulness and limitations of this system. Using cell culture experiments, we demonstrated that β1-integrins and the RhoGTPases RhoA and Rac1 are involved in Yop injection. Since cell culture experiments also revealed that Yop injection is detectable in a similar manner into all subpopulations of the spleen, the system can be used to detect interaction of bacteria with host cells in vivo. In a mouse infection model we found that follicular B cells, granulocytes, macrophages, and dendritic cells are the main targets of Yop injection. Interestingly, Yop-injected B cells displayed an increased activation as indicated by increased CD69 expression. In contrast, interaction of bacteria with T cells seems to be rather a rare event. In immunocompromised gene-targeted mice we found increased frequencies of Yop-injected host cells for yet unknown reasons. Taken together, this novel reporter system represents a powerful tool to further study interaction of host cells with Ye.
PMCID: PMC2718809  PMID: 19680448
19.  Forced IFIT-2 expression represses LPS induced TNF-alpha expression at posttranscriptional levels 
BMC Immunology  2008;9:75.
Interferon induced tetratricopeptide repeat protein 2 (IFIT-2, P54) belongs to the type I interferon response genes and is highly induced after stimulation with LPS. The biological function of this protein is so far unclear. Previous studies indicated that IFIT-2 binds to the initiation factor subunit eIF-3c, affects translation initiation and inhibits protein synthesis. The aim of the study was to further characterize the function of IFIT-2.
Stimulation of RAW264.7 macrophages with LPS or IFN-γ leads to the expression of IFIT-2 in a type I interferon dependent manner. By using stably transfected RAW264.7 macrophages overexpressing IFIT-2 we found that IFIT-2 inhibits selectively LPS induced expression of TNF-α, IL-6, and MIP-2 but not of IFIT-1 or EGR-1. In IFIT-2 overexpressing cells TNF-α mRNA expression was lower after LPS stimulation due to reduced mRNA stability. Further experiments suggest that characteristics of the 3'UTR of transcripts discriminate whether IFIT-2 has a strong impact on protein expression or not.
Our data suggest that IFIT-2 may affect selectively LPS induced protein expression probably by regulation at different posttranscriptional levels.
PMCID: PMC2632614  PMID: 19108715
20.  Organotypical tissue cultures from adult murine colon as an in vitro model of intestinal mucosa 
Histochemistry and Cell Biology  2008;129(6):795-804.
Together with animal experiments, organotypical cell cultures are important models for analyzing cellular interactions of the mucosal epithelium and pathogenic mechanisms in the gastrointestinal tract. Here, we introduce a three-dimensional culture model from the adult mouse colon for cell biological investigations in an in vivo-like environment. These explant cultures were cultured for up to 2 weeks and maintained typical characteristics of the intestinal mucosa, including a high-prismatic epithelium with specific epithelial cell-to-cell connections, a basal lamina and various connective tissue cell types, as analyzed with immunohistological and electron microscopic methods. The function of the epithelium was tested by treating the cultures with dexamethasone, which resulted in a strong upregulation of the serum- and glucocorticoid-inducible kinase 1 similar to that found in vivo. The culture system was investigated in infection experiments with the fungal pathogen Candida albicans. Wildtype but not Δcph1/Δefg1-knockout Candida adhered to, penetrated and infiltrated the epithelial barrier. The results demonstrate the potential usefulness of this intestinal in vitro model for studying epithelial cell-cell interactions, cellular signaling and microbiological infections in a three-dimensional cell arrangement.
PMCID: PMC2584443  PMID: 18320204
In vitro model; Intestine; Serum- and glucocorticoid-inducible kinase 1; Dexamethasone; Infection; Candida albicans
21.  Role of IFN-gamma and IL-6 in a protective immune response to Yersinia enterocolitica in mice 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:153.
Yersinia outer protein (Yop) H is a secreted virulence factor of Yersinia enterocolitica (Ye), which inhibits phagocytosis of Ye and contributes to the virulence of Ye in mice. The aim of this study was to address whether and how YopH affects the innate immune response to Ye in mice.
For this purpose, mice were infected with wild type Ye (pYV+) or a YopH-deficient Ye mutant strain (ΔyopH). CD11b+ cells were isolated from the infected spleen and subjected to gene expression analysis using microarrays. Despite the attenuation of ΔyopH in vivo, by variation of infection doses we were able to achieve conditions that allow comparison of gene expression in pYV+ and ΔyopH infection, using either comparable infection courses or splenic bacterial burden. Gene expression analysis provided evidence that expression levels of several immune response genes, including IFN-γ and IL-6, are high after pYV+ infection but low after sublethal ΔyopH infection. In line with these findings, infection of IFN-γR-/- and IL-6-/- mice with pYV+ or ΔyopH revealed that these cytokines are not necessarily required for control of ΔyopH, but are essential for defense against infection with the more virulent pYV+. Consistently, IFN-γ pretreatment of bone marrow derived macrophages (BMDM) strongly enhanced their ability in killing intracellular Ye bacteria.
In conclusion, this data suggests that IFN-γ-mediated effector mechanisms can partially compensate virulence exerted by YopH. These results shed new light on the protective role of IFN-γ in Ye wild type infections.
PMCID: PMC2556677  PMID: 18803824
22.  Intestinal Colonization of IL-2 Deficient Mice with Non-Colitogenic B. vulgatus Prevents DC Maturation and T-Cell Polarization 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(6):e2376.
IL-2 deficient (IL-2−/−) mice mono-colonized with E. coli mpk develop colitis whereas IL-2−/−-mice mono-colonized with B. vulgatus mpk do not and are even protected from E. coli mpk induced colitis.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We investigated if mono-colonization with E. coli mpk or B. vulgatus mpk differentially modulates distribution, activation and maturation of intestinal lamina propria (LP) dendritic cells (DC). LP DC in mice mono-colonized with protective B. vulgatus mpk or co-colonized with E. coli mpk/B. vulgatus mpk featured a semi-mature LP DC phenotype (CD40loCD80loMHC-IIhi) whereas mono-colonization with colitogenic E. coli mpk induced LP DC activation and maturation prior to onset of colitis. Accordingly, chemokine receptor (CCR) 7 surface expression was more strikingly enhanced in mesenteric lymph node DC from E. coli mpk than B. vulgatus mpk mono- or co-colonized mice. Mature but not semi-mature LP DC promoted Th1 polarization. As B. vulgatus mpk promotes differentiation of semi-mature DC presumably by IL-6, mRNA and protein expression of IL-6 was investigated in LP DC. The data demonstrated that IL-6 mRNA and protein was increased in LP DC of B. vulgatus mpk as compared to E. coli mpk mono-colonized IL-2−/−-mice. The B. vulgatus mpk mediated suppression of CCR7 expression and DC migration was abolished in IL-6−/−-DC in vitro.
From this data we conclude that the B. vulgatus triggered IL-6 secretion by LP DC in absence of proinflammatory cytokines such as IL-12 or TNF-α induces a semi-mature LP DC phenotype, which might prevent T-cell activation and thereby the induction of colitis in IL-2−/−-mice. The data provide new evidence that IL-6 might act as an immune regulatory cytokine in the mucosa by targeting intestinal DC.
PMCID: PMC2398772  PMID: 18545662
23.  A Conserved Glycine Residue of Trimeric Autotransporter Domains Plays a Key Role in Yersinia Adhesin A Autotransport▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;189(24):9011-9019.
The Yersinia adhesin A (YadA) is a trimeric autotransporter adhesin of enteric yersiniae. It consists of three major domains: a head mediating adherence to host cells, a stalk involved in serum resistance, and an anchor that forms a membrane pore and is responsible for the autotransport function. The anchor contains a glycine residue, nearly invariant throughout trimeric autotransporter adhesins, that faces the pore lumen. To address the role of this glycine, we replaced it with polar amino acids of increasing side chain size and expressed wild-type and mutant YadA in Escherichia coli. The mutations did not impair the YadA-mediated adhesion to collagen and to host cells or the host cell cytokine production, but they decreased the expression levels and stability of YadA trimers with increasing side chain size. Likewise, autoagglutination and resistance to serum were decreased in these mutants. We found that the periplasmic protease DegP is involved in the degradation of YadA and that in an E. coli degP deletion strain, mutant versions of YadA were expressed almost to wild-type levels. We conclude that the conserved glycine residue affects both the export and the stability of YadA and consequently some of its putative functions in pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2168626  PMID: 17921300
24.  Identification of Commensal Bacterial Strains That Modulate Yersinia enterocolitica and Dextran Sodium Sulfate-Induced Inflammatory Responses: Implications for the Development of Probiotics▿  
Infection and Immunity  2007;75(7):3490-3497.
An increasing body of evidence suggests that probiotic bacteria are effective in the treatment of enteric infections, although the molecular basis of this activity remains elusive. To identify putative probiotics, we tested commensal bacteria in terms of their toxicity, invasiveness, inhibition of Yersinia-induced inflammation in vitro and in vivo, and modulation of dextran sodium sulfate (DSS)-induced colitis in mice. The commensal bacteria Escherichia coli, Bifidobacterium adolescentis, Bacteroides vulgatus, Bacteroides distasonis, and Streptococcus salivarius were screened for adhesion to, invasion of, and toxicity for host epithelial cells (EC), and the strains were tested for their ability to inhibit Y. enterocolitica-induced NF-κB activation. Additionally, B. adolescentis was administered to mice orally infected with Y. enterocolitica and to mice with mucosae impaired by DSS treatment. None of the commensal bacteria tested was toxic for or invaded the EC. B. adolescentis, B. distasonis, B. vulgatus, and S. salivarius inhibited the Y. enterocolitica-induced NF-κB activation and interleukin-8 production in EC. In line with these findings, B. adolescentis-fed mice had significantly lower results for mean pathogen burden in the visceral organs, intestinal tumor necrosis factor alpha mRNA expression, and loss of body weight upon oral infection with Y. enterocolitica. In addition, the administration of B. adolescentis decelerated inflammation upon DSS treatment in mice. We suggest that our approach might help to identify new probiotics to be used for the treatment of inflammatory and infectious gastrointestinal disorders.
PMCID: PMC1932957  PMID: 17485456
25.  Absence of Toll-Like Receptor 4 Signaling Results in Delayed Yersinia enterocolitica YopP-Induced Cell Death of Dendritic Cells▿  
Infection and Immunity  2006;75(1):512-517.
In an initial period (≤4 h) Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) signaling is required for Yersinia enterocolitica YopP-induced dendritic cell (DC) death. Later (>4 h), DC die independent of TLR4 signaling. In TLR4-deficient DC caspase 8 cleavage is delayed, indicating that TLR4 signaling accelerates caspase 8 activation, leading to DC death.
PMCID: PMC1828399  PMID: 17074859

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