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1.  Neutrophils Select Hypervirulent CovRS Mutants of M1T1 Group A Streptococcus during Subcutaneous Infection of Mice 
Infection and Immunity  2014;82(4):1579-1590.
Pathogen mutants arise during infections. Mechanisms of selection for pathogen variants are poorly understood. We tested whether neutrophils select mutations in the two-component regulatory system CovRS of group A Streptococcus (GAS) during infection using the lack of production of the protease SpeB (SpeB activity negative [SpeBA−]) as a marker. Depletion of neutrophils by antibodies RB6-8C5 and 1A8 reduced the percentage of SpeBA− variants (SpeBA−%) recovered from mice infected with GAS strain MGAS2221 by >76%. Neutrophil recruitment and SpeBA−% among recovered GAS were reduced by 95% and 92%, respectively, in subcutaneous MGAS2221 infection of CXCR2−/− mice compared with control mice. In air sac infection with MGAS2221, levels of neutrophils and macrophages in lavage fluid were reduced by 49% and increased by 287%, respectively, in CXCR2−/− mice compared with control mice, implying that macrophages play an insignificant role in the reduction of selection for SpeBA− variants in CXCR2−/− mice. One randomly chosen SpeBA− mutant outcompeted MGAS2221 in normal mice but was outcompeted by MGAS2221 in neutropenic mice and had enhancements in expression of virulence factors, innate immune evasion, skin invasion, and virulence. This and nine other SpeBA− variants from a mouse all had nonsynonymous covRS mutations that resulted in the SpeBA− phenotype and enhanced expression of the CovRS-controlled secreted streptococcal esterase (SsE). Our findings are consistent with a model that neutrophils select spontaneous covRS mutations that maximize the potential of GAS to evade neutrophil responses, resulting in variants with enhanced survival and virulence. To our knowledge, this is the first report of the critical contribution of neutrophils to the selection of pathogen variants.
PMCID: PMC3993395  PMID: 24452689
2.  Characterization of Streptococcal Platelet-Activating Factor Acetylhydrolase Variants That Are Involved in Innate Immune Evasion 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(9):3128-3138.
Human pathogen group A streptococcus (GAS) has developed mechanisms to subvert innate immunity. We recently reported that the secreted esterase produced by serotype M1 GAS (SsEM1) reduces neutrophil recruitment by targeting platelet-activating factor (PAF). SsEM1 and SsE produced by serotype M28 GAS (SsEM28) have a 37% sequence difference. This study aims at determining whether SsEM28 is also a PAF acetylhydrolase and participates in innate immune evasion. We also examined whether SsE evolved to target PAF by characterizing the PAF acetylhydrolase (PAF-AH) activity and substrate specificity of SsEM1, SsEM28, SeE, the SsE homologue in Streptococcus equi, and human plasma PAF-AH (hpPAF-AH). PAF incubated with SsEM28 or SeE was converted into lyso-PAF. SsEM1 and SsEM28 had kcat values of 373 s−1 and 467 s−1, respectively, that were ≥30-fold greater than that of hpPAF-AH (12 s−1). The comparison of SsEM1, SsEM28, and hpPAF-AH in kcat and Km in hydrolyzing triglycerides, acetyl esters, and PAF indicates that the SsE proteins are more potent hydrolases against PAF and have high affinity for PAF. SsEM28 possesses much lower esterase activities against triglycerides and other esters than SsEM1 but have similar potency with SsEM1 in PAF hydrolysis. Deletion of sseM28 in a covS deletion mutant of GAS increased neutrophil recruitment and reduced skin infection, whereas in trans expression of SsEM28 in GAS reduced neutrophil infiltration and increased skin invasion in subcutaneous infection of mice. These results suggest that the SsE proteins evolved to target PAF for enhancing innate immune evasion and skin invasion.
PMCID: PMC3754204  PMID: 23774595
3.  Comparison of Genomes of Brucella melitensis M28 and the B. melitensis M5-90 Derivative Vaccine Strain Highlights the Translation Elongation Factor Tu Gene tuf2 as an Attenuation-Related Gene 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(8):2812-2818.
Brucella melitensis causes brucellosis, a disease affecting sheep, cattle, and sometimes humans. Attenuated B. melitensis strain M5-90, derived from virulent strain M28, is widely used as a live vaccine in ruminants in China. Genetic differences between the strains may cast light on the mechanism of attenuation. We recently reported the complete genomic sequences of M28 and M5-90. Genome organization is highly conserved between these isolates, and also with virulent strains 16 M and ATCC 23457. Analysis revealed 23 open reading frames (ORFs) with consistent differences between M5-90 and the virulent strains. Notably, the tuf2 gene encoding translation elongation factor EF-Tu from M5-90 contained 50 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and 9 gaps (indels) compared to tuf2 of M28 or of the other virulent strains. There were no changes in tuf1. To evaluate the potential role of EF-Tu in pathogenesis, tuf1 and tuf2 mutants of M28 and an M5-90 strain harboring wild-type tuf2 were constructed, and their virulence/attenuation was evaluated in vivo. We report that the tuf2 gene plays an important role in the attenuation of M5-90 virulence.
PMCID: PMC3719578  PMID: 23716607
4.  Reactive Oxygen Species-Triggered Trophoblast Apoptosis Is Initiated by Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress via Activation of Caspase-12, CHOP, and the JNK Pathway in Toxoplasma gondii Infection in Mice 
Infection and Immunity  2012;80(6):2121-2132.
Toxoplasma gondii infection in pregnant women may result in abortion or in fetal teratogenesis; however, the underlying mechanisms are still unclear. In this paper, based on a murine model, we showed that maternal infection with RH strain T. gondii tachyzoites induced elevated production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), local oxidative stress, and subsequent apoptosis of placental trophoblasts. PCR array analysis of 84 oxidative stress-related genes demonstrated that 27 genes were upregulated at least 2-fold and that 9 genes were downregulated at least 2-fold in the T. gondii infection group compared with levels in the control group. The expression of NADPH oxidase 1 (Nox1) and glutathione peroxidase 6 (Gpx6) increased significantly, about 25-fold. The levels of malondialdehyde (MDA) and 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine (8-OHdG) increased significantly with T. gondii infection, and levels of glutathione (GSH) decreased rapidly. T. gondii infection increased the early expression of endoplasmic reticulum stress (ERS) markers, followed by cleavage of caspase-12, activation of ASK1/JNK, and increased apoptosis of trophoblasts, both in vivo and in vitro. The apoptosis of trophoblasts, the activation of caspase-12 and the ASK1/JNK pathway, and the production of peroxides were dramatically inhibited by pretreatment with N-acetylcysteine (NAC). The upregulation of Nox1 was contact dependent and preceded the increase in levels of ERS markers and the activation of the proapoptosis cascade. Thus, we concluded that apoptosis in placental trophoblasts was initiated predominantly by ROS-mediated ERS via activation of caspase-12, CHOP, and the JNK pathway in acute T. gondii infection. Elevated ROS production is the central event in T. gondii-induced apoptosis of placental trophoblasts.
PMCID: PMC3370585  PMID: 22473610
5.  Differential Expression and Transcriptional Analysis of the α-2,3-Sialyltransferase Gene in Pathogenic Neisseria spp.  
Infection and Immunity  2006;74(5):2637-2650.
α-2,3-Sialyltransferase (Lst) is expressed on the outer membrane of Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Neisseria meningitidis and sialylates surface lipooligosaccharide (LOS), facilitating resistance to complement-mediated killing. The enzyme is constitutively expressed from a single gene (lst) and does not undergo antigenic or phase variation. We observed that Triton X-100 extracts of N. gonorrhoeae strain F62 contain about fivefold more sialyltransferase (Stase) activity than extracts of N. meningitidis strain MC58 ⊄3 a serogroup B acapsulate mutant. We confirmed and expanded upon this observation by showing that extracts of 16 random N. gonorrhoeae isolates contain various amounts of Stase activity, but, on average, 2.2-fold-more Stase activity than extracts of 16 N. meningitidis clinical isolates, representing several serogroups and nongroupable strains. Northern and real-time reverse transcription-PCR analysis of lst transcript levels in N. gonorrhoeae and N. meningitidis revealed that N. gonorrhoeae strains express more lst transcript than N. meningitidis strains. Although transcript levels correlate with average Stase activity observed in the two species, there was not a direct correlation between lst transcript levels and Stase activity among individual isolates of each species. Comparison of lst upstream (5′lst) regions of N. gonorrhoeae and N. meningitidis revealed striking sequence differences characteristic of the two pathogens. N. gonorrhoeae 5′lst regions possess 30-bp and 13-bp elements present as single elements or as tandem repeats that exist only as single elements in the 5′lst regions of N. meningitidis isolates. In addition, the 5′lst regions of N. meningitidis strains have 105-bp transposon-like Correia elements which are absent in N. gonorrhoeae. Chromosomal N. gonorrhoeae 5′lst::lacZ translational fusions expressed 4.75 ± 0.09-fold (n = 4) higher β-galactosidase (β-gal) activity than N. meningitidis 5′lst::lacZ fusions in a host-independent manner, indicating differential expression is governed at least in part by sequence variations in the 5′lst regions. Reporter fusion assays and promoter-mapping analysis revealed that N. gonorrhoeae and N. meningitidis use different promoters with different strengths to transcribe lst. In N. gonorrhoeae, a strong sigma 70 promoter 80 bp upstream of the translational start site is used to transcribe lst, whereas this promoter is inactive in N. meningitidis. In N. meningitidis, a weak sigma 70 promoter at the 3′ terminus of a 105-bp Correia repeat-enclosed element 99 bp upstream of the translational start site is used to transcribe lst. We conclude that differential Stase expression between N. gonorrhoeae and N. meningitidis is due at least in part to differential lst gene transcription.
PMCID: PMC1459705  PMID: 16622200
6.  Biochemical Characterization and Vaccine Potential of a Heme-Binding Glutathione Transferase from the Adult Hookworm Ancylostoma caninum  
Infection and Immunity  2005;73(10):6903-6911.
We report the cloning and expression of Ac-GST-1, a novel glutathione S-transferase from the adult hookworm Ancylostoma caninum, and its possible role in parasite blood feeding and as a vaccine target. The predicted Ac-GST-1 open reading frame contains 207 amino acids (mass, 24 kDa) and exhibited up to 65% amino acid identity with other nematode GSTs. mRNA encoding Ac-GST-1 was detected in adults, eggs, and larval stages, but the protein was detected only in adult hookworm somatic extracts and excretory/secretory products. Using antiserum to the recombinant protein, Ac-GST-1 was immunolocalized to the parasite hypodermis and muscle tissue and weakly to the intestine. Recombinant Ac-GST-1 was enzymatically active, as determined by conjugation of glutathione to a model substrate, and exhibited a novel high-affinity binding site for hematin. The possible role of Ac-GST-1 in parasite heme detoxification during hemoglobin digestion or heme uptake prompted interest in evaluating it as a potential vaccine antigen. Vaccination of dogs with Ac-GST-1 resulted in a 39.4% reduction in the mean worm burden and 32.3% reduction in egg counts compared to control dogs following larval challenge, although the reductions were not statistically significant. However, hamsters vaccinated with Ac-GST-1 exhibited statistically significant worm reduction (53.7%) following challenge with heterologous Necator americanus larvae. These studies suggest that Ac-GST-1 is a possible drug and vaccine target for hookworm infection.
PMCID: PMC1230892  PMID: 16177370
7.  Simultaneous Deficiency in CD28 and STAT6 Results in Chronic Ectoparasite-Induced Inflammatory Skin Disease  
Infection and Immunity  2004;72(7):3706-3715.
A mouse lacking CD28, a T-cell costimulatory molecule, and STAT6, a transcription factor that mediates interleukin-4 (IL-4) signaling, was developed from parental CD28- and STAT6-deficient mice. STAT6/CD28−/− BALB/c mice that were 8 weeks old had a normal phenotype, and IL-4 production was induced following infection with nematode parasites. Unexpectedly, when they were between 4 and 8 months old, all mice examined spontaneously developed severe chronic dermatitis associated with pronounced numbers of Demodex ectoparasites. In addition, pronounced CD4 and CD8 T-cell infiltrates in the dermis and subcutaneous fat, increased serum immunoglobulin G2a levels, and lymphadenopathy associated with increased gamma interferon and IL-12 expression were observed. Single-knockout siblings lacking either CD28 or STAT6 had a phenotype similar to that of BALB/c wild-type controls. To distinguish whether the ectoparasite Demodex or the Th1 immunity was the proximal cause of the inflammatory skin disease, STAT6/CD28−/− mice were treated with a miticide that eliminated the ectoparasites. This treatment markedly reduced the severity of the dermatitis and the associated lymphoid infiltrates. These findings suggest that ubiquitous ectoparasites, which are generally considered to be commensal, may contribute to disease when specific molecules required for an effective Th2 response are blocked.
PMCID: PMC427407  PMID: 15213110
8.  Expression of CD14 by Hepatocytes: Upregulation by Cytokines during Endotoxemia 
Infection and Immunity  1998;66(11):5089-5098.
Studies were undertaken to examine hepatocyte CD14 expression during endotoxemia. Our results show that lipopolysaccharide (LPS) treatment in vivo caused a marked upregulation in CD14 mRNA and protein levels in rat hepatocytes. Detectable increases in mRNA were seen as early as 1.5 h after LPS treatment; these increases peaked at 20-fold by 3 h and returned to baseline levels by 24 h. In situ hybridization localized the CD14 mRNA expression to hepatocytes both in vitro and in vivo. Increases in hepatic CD14 protein levels were detectable by 3 h and peaked at 12 h. Hepatocytes from LPS-treated animals expressed greater amounts of cell-associated CD14 protein, and more of the soluble CD14 was released by hepatocytes from LPS-treated rats in vitro. The increases in hepatocyte CD14 expression during endotoxemia occurred in parallel to increases of CD14 levels in plasma. To provide molecular identification of the hepatocyte CD14, we cloned the rat liver CD14 cDNA. The longest clone consists of a 1,591-bp insert containing a 1,116-bp open reading frame. The deduced amino acid sequence is 372 amino acids long, has 81.8 and 62.8% homology to the amino acid sequences of mouse and human CD14, respectively, and is identical to the rat macrophage CD14. The expressed CD14 protein from this clone was functional, as indicated by NF-κB activation in response to LPS and fluorescein isothiocyanate-LPS binding in CHO cells stably transfected with rat CD14. A nuclear run-on assay showed that CD14 transcription rates were significantly increased in hepatocytes from LPS-treated animals, indicating that the upregulation in CD14 mRNA levels observed in rat hepatocytes after LPS treatment is dependent, in part, on increased transcription. In vitro and in vivo experiments indicated that interleukin-1β and/or tumor necrosis factor α participate in the upregulation of CD14 mRNA levels in hepatocytes. Our data indicate that hepatocytes express CD14 and that hepatocyte CD14 mRNA and protein levels increase rapidly during endotoxemia. Our observations also support the idea that soluble CD14 is an acute-phase protein and that hepatocytes could be a source for soluble CD14 production.
PMCID: PMC108634  PMID: 9784508
9.  Purification and characterization of serotype 6 fimbriae from Bordetella pertussis and comparison of their properties with serotype 2 fimbriae. 
Infection and Immunity  1987;55(4):916-922.
Fimbriae were removed from Bordetella pertussis (serotype 1.3.6) by mechanical shearing and purified by precipitation with ammonium sulfate, pH-dependent precipitation at pH 7.4, followed by two successive extractions of the precipitated fimbriae with 4 M urea. By electron microscopy, the precipitated fimbriae appeared as aggregated bundles of long, relatively straight filaments which were disaggregated to individual flexuous filaments at pH 10.5. These purified fimbriae were identified as serotype 6 agglutinogens, since antibody to the purified fimbriae agglutinated B. pertussis strains serotyped as 1.3.6,, or but did not agglutinate strains of serotype, 1.2.3, or 1.3. In contrast, antibody to serotype 2 fimbriae only agglutinated B. pertussis strains containing serotype 2 agglutinogen. Purified type 6 and 2 fimbriae were found to be weakly cross-reactive by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, using polyclonal antibody to each type of fimbria. In an immunoblot assay, polyclonal antibodies to a 22,000-dalton subunit of fimbriae from B. bronchiseptica reacted strongly with the type 2 fimbrial subunit of B. pertussis, but only weakly with the type 6 subunit. When subjected to sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, the protein subunit of the type 6 fimbriae migrated with a molecular weight of 21,500, whereas the type 2 fimbrial subunit had a molecular weight of 22,000. The two types of subunits had similar amino acid compositions and showed amino-terminal sequence homology in 15 of 21 amino acids. The amino-terminal amino acid sequences of the B. pertussis fimbriae were distinct from those reported for fimbriae from other gram-negative bacteria. Neither the type 6 nor the type 2 fimbriae caused hemagglutination when assayed with several types of erythrocytes.
PMCID: PMC260438  PMID: 2881893
10.  Chlamydia pneumoniae Infection Promotes Vascular Smooth Muscle Cell Migration through a Toll-Like Receptor 2-Related Signaling Pathway 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(12):4583-4591.
The migration of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) from the media to the intima is proposed to be a key event in the development of atherosclerosis. Recently, we reported that Chlamydia pneumoniae infection is involved in VSMC migration. However, the exact mechanisms for C. pneumoniae infection-induced VSMC migration are not yet well elucidated. In this study, we examined the role of the Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2) activation-related signaling pathway in VSMC migration induced by C. pneumoniae infection. An Affymetrix-based gene expression array was conducted to identify the changes of gene expression in rat primary VSMCs (rVSMCs) infected with C. pneumoniae. Both the microarray analysis and quantitative real-time reverse transcription (RT)-PCR revealed that TLR2 mRNA expression was strongly upregulated 12 h after C. pneumoniae infection. RT-PCR and Western blot analysis further showed that the expression levels of TLR2 mRNA and protein significantly increased at the different time points after infection. Immunocytochemical analysis suggested a TLR2 recruitment to the vicinity of C. pneumoniae inclusions. Cell migration assays showed that the TLR2-neutralizing antibody could significantly inhibit C. pneumoniae infection-induced rVSMC migration. In addition, C. pneumoniae infection stimulated Akt phosphorylation at Ser 473, which was obviously suppressed by the PI3K inhibitor LY294002, thereby inhibiting rVSMC migration caused by C. pneumoniae infection. Furthermore, both the infection-induced Akt phosphorylation and rVSMC migration were suppressed by the TLR2-neutralizing antibody. Taken together, these data suggest that C. pneumoniae infection can promote VSMC migration possibly through the TLR2-related signaling pathway.
PMCID: PMC3837995  PMID: 24082081
11.  Identification of Salmonella enterica Serovar Pullorum Antigenic Determinants Expressed In Vivo 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(9):3119-3127.
Salmonella enterica serovar Pullorum affecting poultry causes pullorum disease and results in severe economic loss in the poultry industry. Currently, it remains a major threat in countries with poor poultry surveillance and no efficient control measures. As S. Pullorum could induce strong humoral immune responses, we applied an immunoscreening technique, the in vivo-induced antigen technology (IVIAT), to identify immunogenic bacterial proteins expressed or upregulated during S. Pullorum infection. Convalescent-phase sera from chickens infected with S. Pullorum were pooled, adsorbed against antigens expressed in vitro, and used to screen an S. Pullorum genomic expression library. Forty-five proteins were screened out, and their functions were implicated in molecular biosynthesis and degradation, transport, metabolism, regulation, cell wall synthesis and antibiotic resistance, environmental adaptation, or putative functions. In addition, 11 of these 45 genes were assessed for their differential expression by quantitative real-time reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR), revealing that 9 of 11 genes were upregulated to different degrees under in vivo conditions, especially the regulator of virulence determinants, phoQ. Then, four in vivo-induced proteins (ShdA, PhoQ, Cse3, and PbpC) were tested for their immunoreactivity in 28 clinical serum samples from chickens infected with S. Pullorum. The rate of detection of antibodies against ShdA reached 82% and was the highest among these proteins. ShdA is a host colonization factor known to be upregulated in vivo and related to the persistence of S. Typhimurium in the intestine. Furthermore, these antigens identified by IVIAT warrant further evaluation for their contributions to pathogenesis, and more potential roles, such as diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive uses, need to be developed in future studies.
PMCID: PMC3754199  PMID: 23774596
12.  Investigation of the Function of Candida albicans Als3 by Heterologous Expression in Candida glabrata 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(7):2528-2535.
During hematogenously disseminated infection, blood-borne Candida albicans invades the endothelial cell lining of the vasculature to invade the deep tissues. Although the C. albicans Als3 invasin is critical for invasion and damage of endothelial cells in vitro, a C. albicans als3Δ/Δ mutant has normal virulence in the mouse model of disseminated infection. We hypothesized that the contribution of Als3 to virulence is obscured by the presence of additional C. albicans invasins. To elucidate the in vivo function of Als3, we heterologously expressed C. albicans ALS3 in Candida glabrata, a yeast that lacks a close ALS3 ortholog and has low virulence in mice. We found that following intravenous inoculation into mice, the ALS3-expressing strain preferentially trafficked to the brain, where it induced significantly elevated levels of myeloperoxidase, tumor necrosis factor, monocyte chemoattractant protein 1, and gamma interferon. Also, the ALS3-expressing strain had enhanced adherence to and invasion of human brain microvascular endothelial cells in vitro, demonstrating a potential mechanism for ALS3-mediated neurotropism. In addition, upon initiation of infection, the ALS3-expressing strain had increased trafficking to the cortex of the kidneys. With prolonged infection, this strain persisted in the kidneys at significantly higher levels than the control strain but did not induce an elevated inflammatory response. Finally, the ALS3-expressing strain had increased resistance to neutrophil killing in vitro. These results indicate that during disseminated infection, Als3 mediates initial trafficking to the brain and renal cortex and contributes to fungal persistence in the kidneys.
PMCID: PMC3697595  PMID: 23630968
13.  SR-Like RNA-Binding Protein Slr1 Affects Candida albicans Filamentation and Virulence 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(4):1267-1276.
Candida albicans causes both mucosal and disseminated infections, and its capacity to grow as both yeast and hyphae is a key virulence factor. Hyphal formation is a type of polarized growth, and members of the SR (serine-arginine) family of RNA-binding proteins influence polarized growth of both Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Aspergillus nidulans. Therefore, we investigated whether SR-like proteins affect filamentous growth and virulence of C. albicans. BLAST searches with S. cerevisiae SR-like protein Npl3 (ScNpl3) identified two C. albicans proteins: CaNpl3, an apparent ScNpl3 ortholog, and Slr1, another SR-like RNA-binding protein with no close S. cerevisiae ortholog. Whereas ScNpl3 was critical for growth, deletion of NPL3 in C. albicans resulted in few phenotypic changes. In contrast, the slr1Δ/Δ mutant had a reduced growth rate in vitro, decreased filamentation, and impaired capacity to damage epithelial and endothelial cells in vitro. Mice infected intravenously with the slr1Δ/Δ mutant strain had significantly prolonged survival compared to that of mice infected with the wild-type or slr1Δ/Δ mutant complemented with SLR1 (slr1Δ/Δ+SLR1) strain, without a concomitant decrease in kidney fungal burden. Histopathology, however, revealed differential localization of slr1Δ/Δ hyphal and yeast morphologies within the kidney. Mice infected with slr1Δ/Δ cells also had an increased brain fungal burden, which correlated with increased invasion of brain, but not umbilical vein, endothelial cells in vitro. The enhanced brain endothelial cell invasion was likely due to the increased surface exposure of the Als3 adhesin on slr1Δ/Δ cells. Our results indicate that Slr1 is an SR-like protein that influences C. albicans growth, filamentation, host cell interactions, and virulence.
PMCID: PMC3639594  PMID: 23381995
14.  Regulation of Inhibition of Neutrophil Infiltration by the Two-Component Regulatory System CovRS in Subcutaneous Murine Infection with Group A Streptococcus 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(3):974-983.
Hypervirulent invasive group A streptococcus (GAS) isolates inhibit neutrophil infiltration more than pharyngitis isolates do, and the molecular basis of this difference is not well understood. This study was designed to first determine whether natural null mutation of the two-component regulatory system CovRS is responsible for the enhancement of the inhibition of neutrophil recruitment seen in hypervirulent GAS. Next, we examined the role of CovRS-regulated interleukin-8/CXC chemokine peptidase (SpyCEP), C5a peptidase (ScpA), and platelet-activating factor acetylhydrolase (SsE) in the enhanced innate immune evasion. Invasive isolate MGAS5005 induces less neutrophil infiltration and produced a greater lesion area than pharyngitis isolate MGAS2221 in subcutaneous infections of mice. It is known that MGAS5005, but not MGAS2221, has a natural 1-bp deletion in the covS gene. Replacement of covSΔ1bp in MGAS5005 with wild-type covS resulted in the MGAS2221 phenotype. Deletion of covS from MGAS2221 resulted in the MGAS5005 phenotype. Tests of single, double, and triple deletion mutants of the MGAS5005 sse, spyCEP, and scpA genes found that SsE plays a more important role than SpyCEP and ScpA in the inhibition of neutrophil recruitment and that SsE, SpyCEP, and ScpA do not have synergistic effects on innate immune evasion by MGAS5005. Deletion of sse, but not spyCEP or scpA, of MGAS2221 enhances neutrophil recruitment. Thus, covS null mutations can cause substantial inhibition of neutrophil recruitment by enhancing the expression of the chemoattractant-degrading virulence factors, and SsE, but not SpyCEP or ScpA, is required for CovRS-regulated GAS inhibition of neutrophil infiltration.
PMCID: PMC3584857  PMID: 23319556
15.  Intestinal Epithelial CD98 Directly Modulates the Innate Host Response to Enteric Bacterial Pathogens 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(3):923-934.
CD98 is a type II transmembrane glycoprotein whose expression increases in intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) during intestinal inflammation. Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) is a food-borne human pathogen that attaches to IECs and injects effector proteins directly into the host cells, thus provoking an inflammatory response. In the present study, we investigated CD98 and EPEC interactions in vitro and ex vivo and examined FVB wild-type (WT) and villin-CD98 transgenic mice overexpressing human CD98 in IECs (hCD98 Tg mice) and infected with Citrobacter rodentium as an in vivo model. In vivo studies indicated that CD98 overexpression, localized to the apical domain of colonic cells, increased the attachment of C. rodentium in mouse colons and resulted in increased expression of proinflammatory markers and decreased expression of anti-inflammatory markers. The proliferative markers Ki-67 and cyclin D1 were significantly increased in the colonic tissue of C. rodentium-infected hCD98 Tg mice compared to that of WT mice. Ex vivo studies correlate with the in vivo data. Small interfering RNA (siRNA) studies with Caco2-BBE cells showed a decrease in adherence of EPEC to Caco2 cells in which CD98 expression was knocked down. In vitro surface plasmon resonance (SPR) experiments showed direct binding between recombinant hCD98 and EPEC/C. rodentium proteins. We also demonstrated that the partial extracellular loop of hCD98 was sufficient for direct binding to EPEC/C. rodentium. These findings demonstrate the importance of the extracellular loop of CD98 in the innate host defense response to intestinal infection by attaching and effacing (A/E) pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3584858  PMID: 23297381
16.  Cryptococcus neoformans Requires the ESCRT Protein Vps23 for Iron Acquisition from Heme, for Capsule Formation, and for Virulence 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(1):292-302.
Iron availability is a key regulator of virulence factor elaboration in Cryptococcus neoformans, the causative agent of fungal meningoencephalitis in HIV/AIDS patients. In addition, iron is an essential nutrient for pathogen proliferation in mammalian hosts but little is known about the mechanisms of iron sensing and uptake in fungal pathogens that attack humans. In this study, we mutagenized C. neoformans by Agrobacterium-mediated T-DNA insertion and screened for mutants with reduced growth on heme as the sole iron source. Among 34 mutants, we identified a subset with insertions in the gene for the ESCRT-I (endosomal sorting complex required for transport) protein Vps23 that resulted in a growth defect on heme, presumably due to a defect in uptake via endocytosis or misregulation of iron acquisition from heme. Remarkably, vps23 mutants were also defective in the elaboration of the cell-associated capsular polysaccharide that is a major virulence factor, while overexpression of Vps23 resulted in cells with a slightly enlarged capsule. These phenotypes were mirrored by a virulence defect in the vps23 mutant in a mouse model of cryptococcosis and by hypervirulence of the overexpression strain. Overall, these results reveal an important role for trafficking via ESCRT functions in both heme uptake and capsule formation, and they further reinforce the connection between iron and virulence factor deployment in C. neoformans.
PMCID: PMC3536123  PMID: 23132495
17.  RivR Is a Negative Regulator of Virulence Factor Expression in Group A Streptococcus 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(1):364-372.
The bacterial pathogen group A Streptococcus (GAS) causes human diseases ranging from self-limiting pharyngitis (also known as strep throat) to severely invasive necrotizing fasciitis (also known as the flesh-eating syndrome). To control virulence factor expression, GAS utilizes both protein- and RNA-based mechanisms of regulation. Here we report that the transcription factor RivR (RofA-like protein IV) negatively regulates the abundance of mRNAs encoding the hyaluronic acid capsule biosynthesis proteins (hasABC; ∼7-fold) and the protein G-related α2-macroglobulin-binding protein (grab; ∼29-fold). Our data differ significantly from those of a previous study of the RivR regulon. Given that grab and hasABC are also negatively regulated by the two-component system CovR/S (control of virulence), we tested whether RivR functions through CovR/S. A comparison of riv and cov single and double mutant strains showed that RivR requires CovR activity for grab and hasABC regulation. Analysis of the upstream region of rivR identified a novel promoter the deletion of which reduced rivR mRNA abundance by 70%. A rivR mutant strain had a reduced ability to adhere to human keratinocytes relative to that of the parental and complemented strains, a phenotype that was abolished upon GAS pretreatment with hyaluronidase, highlighting the importance of capsule regulation by RivR during colonization. The rivR mutant strain was also attenuated for virulence in a murine model of bacteremia infection. Thus, we identify RivR as an important regulator of GAS virulence and provide new insight into the regulatory networks controlling virulence factor production in this pathogen.
PMCID: PMC3536152  PMID: 23147037
18.  Intrarectal Instillation of Clostridium difficile Toxin A Triggers Colonic Inflammation and Tissue Damage: Development of a Novel and Efficient Mouse Model of Clostridium difficile Toxin Exposure 
Infection and Immunity  2012;80(12):4474-4484.
Clostridium difficile, a major cause of hospital-acquired diarrhea, triggers disease through the release of two toxins, toxin A (TcdA) and toxin B (TcdB). These toxins disrupt the cytoskeleton of the intestinal epithelial cell, increasing intestinal permeability and triggering the release of inflammatory mediators resulting in intestinal injury and inflammation. The most prevalent animal model to study TcdA/TcdB-induced intestinal injury involves injecting toxin into the lumen of a surgically generated “ileal loop.” This model is time-consuming and exhibits variability depending on the expertise of the surgeon. Furthermore, the target organ of C. difficile infection (CDI) in humans is the colon, not the ileum. In the current study, we describe a new model of CDI that involves intrarectal instillation of TcdA/TcdB into the mouse colon. The administration of TcdA/TcdB triggered colonic inflammation and neutrophil and macrophage infiltration as well as increased epithelial barrier permeability and intestinal epithelial cell death. The damage and inflammation triggered by TcdA/TcdB isolates from the VPI and 630 strains correlated with the concentration of TcdA and TcdB produced. TcdA/TcdB exposure increased the expression of a number of inflammatory mediators associated with human CDI, including interleukin-6 (IL-6), gamma interferon (IFN-γ), and IL-1β. Finally, we were able to demonstrate that TcdA was much more potent at inducing colonic injury than was TcdB but TcdB could act synergistically with TcdA to exacerbate injury. Taken together, our data indicate that the intrarectal murine model provides a robust and efficient system to examine the effects of TcdA/TcdB on the induction of inflammation and colonic tissue damage in the context of human CDI.
PMCID: PMC3497439  PMID: 23045481
19.  Lack of Lipid A Pyrophosphorylation and Functional lptA Reduces Inflammation by Neisseria Commensals 
Infection and Immunity  2012;80(11):4014-4026.
The interaction of the immune system with Neisseria commensals remains poorly understood. We have previously shown that phosphoethanolamine on the lipid A portion of lipooligosaccharide (LOS) plays an important role in Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) signaling. For pathogenic Neisseria, phosphoethanolamine is added to lipid A by the phosphoethanolamine transferase specific for lipid A, which is encoded by lptA. Here, we report that Southern hybridizations and bioinformatics analyses of genomic sequences from all eight commensal Neisseria species confirmed that lptA was absent in 15 of 17 strains examined but was present in N. lactamica. Mass spectrometry of lipid A and intact LOS revealed the lack of both pyrophosphorylation and phosphoethanolaminylation in lipid A of commensal species lacking lptA. Inflammatory signaling in human THP-1 monocytic cells was much greater with pathogenic than with commensal Neisseria strains that lacked lptA, and greater sensitivity to polymyxin B was consistent with the absence of phosphoethanolamine. Unlike the other commensals, whole bacteria of two N. lactamica commensal strains had low inflammatory potential, whereas their lipid A had high-level pyrophosphorylation and phosphoethanolaminylation and induced high-level inflammatory signaling, supporting previous studies indicating that this species uses mechanisms other than altering lipid A to support commensalism. A meningococcal lptA deletion mutant had reduced inflammatory potential, further illustrating the importance of lipid A pyrophosphorylation and phosphoethanolaminylation in the bioactivity of LOS. Overall, our results indicate that lack of pyrophosphorylation and phosphoethanolaminylation of lipid A contributes to the immune privilege of most commensal Neisseria strains by reducing the inflammatory potential of LOS.
PMCID: PMC3486066  PMID: 22949553
20.  The Amino Acid Sequence of Neisseria lactamica PorB Surface-Exposed Loops Influences Toll-Like Receptor 2-Dependent Cell Activation 
Infection and Immunity  2012;80(10):3417-3428.
Toll-like receptors (TLRs) play a major role in host mucosal and systemic defense mechanisms by recognizing a diverse array of conserved pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs). TLR2, with TLR1 and TLR6, recognizes structurally diverse bacterial products such as lipidated factors (lipoproteins and peptidoglycans) and nonlipidated proteins, i.e., bacterial porins. PorB is a pan-neisserial porin expressed regardless of organisms' pathogenicity. However, commensal Neisseria lactamica organisms and purified N. lactamica PorB (published elsewhere as Nlac PorB) induce TLR2-dependent proinflammatory responses of lower magnitude than N. meningitidis organisms and N. meningitidis PorB (published elsewhere as Nme PorB). Both PorB types bind to TLR2 in vitro but with different apparent specificities. The structural and molecular details of PorB-TLR2 interaction are only beginning to be unraveled and may be due to electrostatic attraction. PorB molecules have significant strain-specific sequence variability within surface-exposed regions (loops) putatively involved in TLR2 interaction. By constructing chimeric recombinant PorB loop mutants in which surface-exposed loop residues have been switched between N. lactamica PorB and N. meningitidis PorB, we identified residues in loop 5 and loop 7 that influence TLR2-dependent cell activation using HEK cells and BEAS-2B cells. These loops are not uniquely responsible for PorB interaction with TLR2, but NF-κB and MAP kinases signaling downstream of TLR2 recognition are likely influenced by a hypothetical “TLR2-binding signature” within the sequence of PorB surface-exposed loops. Consistent with the effect of purified PorB in vitro, a chimeric N. meningitidis strain expressing N. lactamica PorB induces lower levels of interleukin 8 (IL-8) secretion than wild-type N. meningitidis, suggesting a role for PorB in induction of host cell activation by whole bacteria.
PMCID: PMC3457564  PMID: 22825445
21.  Critical Role for MyD88-Mediated Neutrophil Recruitment during Clostridium difficile Colitis 
Infection and Immunity  2012;80(9):2989-2996.
Clostridium difficile can infect the large intestine and cause colitis when the normal intestinal microbiota is altered by antibiotic administration. Little is known about the innate immune signaling pathways that marshal inflammatory responses to C. difficile infection and whether protective and pathogenic inflammatory responses can be dissociated. Toll-like receptors predominantly signal via the MyD88 adaptor protein and are important mediators of innate immune signaling in the intestinal mucosa. Here, we demonstrate that MyD88-mediated signals trigger neutrophil and CCR2-dependent Ly6Chi monocyte recruitment to the colonic lamina propria (cLP) during infection, which prevent dissemination of bystander bacteria to deeper tissues. Mortality is markedly increased in MyD88-deficient mice following C. difficile infection, as are parameters of mucosal tissue damage and inflammation. Antibody-mediated depletion of neutrophils markedly increases mortality, while attenuated recruitment of Ly6Chi monocytes in CCR2-deficient mice does not alter the course of C. difficile infection. Expression of CXCL1, a neutrophil-recruiting chemokine, is impaired in the cLP of MyD88−/− mice. Our studies suggest that MyD88-mediated signals promote neutrophil recruitment by inducing expression of CXCL1, thereby providing critical early defense against C. difficile-mediated colitis.
PMCID: PMC3418725  PMID: 22689818
22.  Phosphate Groups of Lipid A Are Essential for Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium Virulence and Affect Innate and Adaptive Immunity 
Infection and Immunity  2012;80(9):3215-3224.
Lipid A is a key component of the outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria and stimulates proinflammatory responses via the Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4)-MD2-CD14 pathway. Its endotoxic activity depends on the number and length of acyl chains and its phosphorylation state. In Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, removal of the secondary laurate or myristate chain in lipid A results in bacterial attenuation and growth defects in vitro. However, the roles of the two lipid A phosphate groups in bacterial virulence and immunogenicity remain unknown. Here, we used an S. Typhimurium msbB pagL pagP lpxR mutant, carrying penta-acylated lipid A, as the parent strain to construct a series of mutants synthesizing 1-dephosphorylated, 4′-dephosphorylated, or nonphosphorylated penta-acylated lipid A. Dephosphorylated mutants exhibited increased sensitivity to deoxycholate and showed increased resistance to polymyxin B. Removal of both phosphate groups severely attenuated the mutants when administered orally to BALB/c mice, but the mutants colonized the lymphatic tissues and were sufficiently immunogenic to protect the host from challenge with wild-type S. Typhimurium. Mice receiving S. Typhimurium with 1-dephosphorylated or nonphosphorylated penta-acylated lipid A exhibited reduced levels of cytokines. Attenuated and dephosphorylated Salmonella vaccines were able to induce adaptive immunity against heterologous (PspA of Streptococcus pneumoniae) and homologous antigens (lipopolysaccharide [LPS] and outer membrane proteins [OMPs]).
PMCID: PMC3418755  PMID: 22753374
23.  Loss of Outer Membrane Protein C in Escherichia coli Contributes to Both Antibiotic Resistance and Escaping Antibody-Dependent Bactericidal Activity 
Infection and Immunity  2012;80(5):1815-1822.
Outer membrane proteins (OMPs) serve as the permeability channels for nutrients, toxins, and antibiotics. In Escherichia coli, OmpA has been shown to be involved in bacterial virulence, and OmpC is related to multidrug resistance. However, it is unclear whether OmpC also has a role in the virulence of E. coli. The aims of this study were to characterize the role of OmpC in antimicrobial resistance and bacterial virulence in E. coli. The ompC deletion mutant showed significantly decreased susceptibility to carbapenems and cefepime. To investigate the survival of E. coli exposed to the innate immune system, a human blood bactericidal assay showed that the ompC mutant increased survival in blood and serum but not in complement-inactivated serum. These effects were also demonstrated in the natural selection of OmpC mutants. Also, C1q interacted with E. coli through a complex of antibodies bound to OmpC as a major target. Bacterial survival was increased in the wild-type strain in a dose-dependent manner by adding free recombinant OmpC protein or anti-C1q antibody to human serum. These results demonstrated that the interaction of OmpC-specific antibody and C1q was the key step in initiating the antibody-dependent classical pathway for the clearance of OmpC-expressing E. coli. Anti-OmpC antibody was detected in human sera, indicating that OmpC is an immunogen. These data indicate that the loss of OmpC in E. coli is resistant to not only antibiotics, but also the serum bactericidal effect, which is mediated from the C1q and anti-OmpC antibody-dependent classical pathway.
PMCID: PMC3347438  PMID: 22354022
24.  Involvement of the Mannose Receptor and p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Signaling Pathway of the Microdomain of the Integral Membrane Protein after Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli Infection 
Infection and Immunity  2012;80(4):1343-1350.
The microdomain of the integral membrane protein (MIMP) has been shown to adhere to mucin and to antagonize the adhesion of enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) to epithelial cells; however, the mechanism has not been fully elucidated. In this study, we further identified the receptor of MIMP on NCM460 cells and investigated the mechanism (the p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase [MAPK] pathway) following the interaction of MIMP and its corresponding receptor, mannose receptor. We first identified the target receptor of MIMP on the surfaces of NCM460 cells using immunoprecipitation-mass spectrometry technology. We also verified the mannose receptor and examined the degradation and activation of the p38 MAPK signaling pathway. The results indicated that MIMP adhered to NCM460 cells by binding to the mannose receptor and inhibited the phosphorylation of p38 MAPK stimulated after EPEC infection via inhibition of the Toll-like receptor 5 pathway. These findings indicated that MIMPs relieve the injury of NCM460 cells after enteropathogenic E. coli infection through the mannose receptor and inhibition of the p38 MAPK signaling pathway, both of which may therefore be potential therapeutic targets for intestinal diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease.
PMCID: PMC3318401  PMID: 22290149
25.  Both Phthiocerol Dimycocerosates and Phenolic Glycolipids Are Required for Virulence of Mycobacterium marinum 
Infection and Immunity  2012;80(4):1381-1389.
Phthiocerol dimycocerosates (PDIMs) and structurally related phenolic glycolipids (PGLs) are complex cell wall lipids unique to pathogenic mycobacteria. While these lipids have been extensively studied in recent years, there are conflicting reports on some aspects of their biosynthesis and on the role of PDIMs and especially PGLs in virulence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. This has been complicated by the natural deficiency of PGLs in many clinical strains of M. tuberculosis and the frequent loss of PDIMs in laboratory M. tuberculosis strains. In this study, we isolated seven mutants of Mycobacterium marinum deficient in PDIMs and/or PGLs in which multiple genes of the PDIM/PGL biosynthetic locus were disrupted by transposon insertion. Zebrafish infection experiments showed that M. marinum strains lacking one or both of these lipids were avirulent, suggesting that both PDIMs and PGLs are required for virulence. We also found that these strains were hypersensitive to antibiotics and exhibited increased cell wall permeability. Our studies provide new insights into the biosynthesis of PDIMs/PGLs and may help us to understand the role of PDIMs and PGLs in M. tuberculosis virulence.
PMCID: PMC3318414  PMID: 22290144

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