Streptococcus agalactiae is the causative agent of septicemia and meningitis in fish. Previous studies have shown that hyaluronidase (Hyl) is an important virulence factor in many Gram-positive bacteria. To investigate the role of S. agalactiae Hyl during interaction with macrophages, we inactivated the gene encoding extracellular hyaluronidase, hylB, in a clinical Hyl+ isolate. The isogenic hylb mutant (Δhylb) displayed reduced survival in macrophages compared to the wild type and stimulated a significantly higher release of proinflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin-1β (IL-1β), IL-6, and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), than the wild type in macrophages as well as in mice. Furthermore, only Hyl+ strains could grow utilizing hyaluronic acid (HA) as the sole carbon source, suggesting that Hyl permits the organism to utilize host HA as an energy source. Fifty percent lethal dose (LD50) determinations in zebrafish demonstrated that the hylb mutant was highly attenuated relative to the wild-type strain. Experimental infection of BALB/c mice revealed that bacterial loads in the blood, spleen, and brain at 16 h postinfection were significantly reduced in the ΔhylB mutant compared to those in wild-type-infected mice. In conclusion, hyaluronidase has a strong influence on the intracellular survival of S. agalactiae and proinflammatory cytokine expression, suggesting that it plays a key role in S. agalactiae pathogenicity.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Parasitic helminth infection has been shown to modulate pathological inflammatory responses in allergy and autoimmune disease. The aim of this study was to examine the effects of infection with a helminth parasite, Heligmosomoides polygyrus, on type 1 diabetes (T1D) in nonobese diabetic (NOD) mice and to elucidate the mechanisms involved in this protection. H. polygyrus inoculation at 5 weeks of age protected NOD mice from T1D until 40 weeks of age and also inhibited the more aggressive cyclophosphamide-induced T1D. Moreover, H. polygyrus inoculation as late as 12 weeks of age reduced the onset of T1D in NOD mice. Following H. polygyrus inoculation of NOD mice, pancreatic insulitis was markedly inhibited. Interleukin-4 (IL-4), IL-10, and IL-13 expression and the frequency of CD4+ CD25+ FoxP3+ regulatory T cells were elevated in mesenteric and pancreatic lymph nodes. Depletion of CD4+ CD25+ T cells in vivo did not abrogate H. polygyrus-induced T1D protection, nor did anti-IL-10 receptor blocking antibody. These findings suggest that infection with H. polygyrus significantly inhibits T1D in NOD mice through CD25- and IL-10-independent mechanisms and also reduces the severity of T1D when administered late after the onset of insulitis.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 126.96.36.199, or 188.8.131.52.6 but did not agglutinate strains of serotype 184.108.40.206, 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.
Helicobacter heilmannii is a zoonotic bacterium that has been associated with gastric disease in humans. In this study, the mRNA expression of mucins in the stomach of BALB/c mice was analyzed at several time points during a 1-year infection with this bacterium, during which gastric disease progressed in severity. Markers for acid production by parietal cells and mucous metaplasia were also examined. In the first 9 weeks postinfection, the mRNA expression of Muc6 was clearly upregulated in both the antrum and fundus of the stomach of H. heilmannii-infected mice. Interestingly, Muc13 was upregulated already at 1 day postinfection in the fundus of the stomach. Its expression level remained high in the stomach over the course of the infection. This mucin is, however, not expressed in a healthy stomach, and high expression of this mucin has so far only been described in gastric cancer. In the later stages of infection, mRNA expression of H+/K+-ATPase α/β and KCNQ1 decreased, whereas the expression of Muc4, Tff2, Dmbt1, and polymeric immunoglobulin receptor (pIgR) increased starting at 16 weeks postinfection onwards, suggesting the existence of spasmolytic polypeptide-expressing metaplasia in the fundus of the stomach. Mucous metaplasia present in the mucosa surrounding low-grade mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) lymphoma-like lesions was also histologically confirmed. Our findings indicate that H. heilmannii infection causes severe gastric pathologies and alterations in the expression pattern of gastric mucins, such as Muc6 and Muc13, as well as disrupting gastric homeostasis by inducing the loss of parietal cells, resulting in the development of mucous metaplasia.
ALOX12 is a gene encoding arachidonate 12-lipoxygenase (12-LOX), a member of a nonheme lipoxygenase family of dioxygenases. ALOX12 catalyzes the addition of oxygen to arachidonic acid, producing 12-hydroperoxyeicosatetraenoic acid (12-HPETE), which can be reduced to the eicosanoid 12-HETE (12-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid). 12-HETE acts in diverse cellular processes, including catecholamine synthesis, vasoconstriction, neuronal function, and inflammation. Consistent with effects on these fundamental mechanisms, allelic variants of ALOX12 are associated with diseases including schizophrenia, atherosclerosis, and cancers, but the mechanisms have not been defined. Toxoplasma gondii is an apicomplexan parasite that causes morbidity and mortality and stimulates an innate and adaptive immune inflammatory reaction. Recently, it has been shown that a gene region known as Toxo1 is critical for susceptibility or resistance to T. gondii infection in rats. An orthologous gene region with ALOX12 centromeric is also present in humans. Here we report that the human ALOX12 gene has susceptibility alleles for human congenital toxoplasmosis (rs6502997 [P, <0.000309], rs312462 [P, <0.028499], rs6502998 [P, <0.029794], and rs434473 [P, <0.038516]). A human monocytic cell line was genetically engineered using lentivirus RNA interference to knock down ALOX12. In ALOX12 knockdown cells, ALOX12 RNA expression decreased and levels of the ALOX12 substrate, arachidonic acid, increased. ALOX12 knockdown attenuated the progression of T. gondii infection and resulted in greater parasite burdens but decreased consequent late cell death of the human monocytic cell line. These findings suggest that ALOX12 influences host responses to T. gondii infection in human cells. ALOX12 has been shown in other studies to be important in numerous diseases. Here we demonstrate the critical role ALOX12 plays in T. gondii infection in humans.
Streptococcus pneumoniae is a Gram-positive and human-restricted pathogen colonizing the nasopharynx with an absence of clinical symptoms as well as a major pathogen causing otitis media (OM), one of the most common childhood infections. Upon bacterial infection, neutrophils are rapidly activated and recruited to the infected site, acting as the frontline defender against emerging microbial pathogens via different ways. Evidence shows that interleukin 17A (IL-17A), a neutrophil-inducing factor, plays important roles in the immune responses in several diseases. However, its function in response to S. pneumoniae OM remains unclear. In this study, the function of IL-17A in response to S. pneumoniae OM was examined using an in vivo model. We developed a model of acute OM (AOM) in C57BL/6 mice and found that neutrophils were the dominant immune cells that infiltrated to the middle ear cavity (MEC) and contributed to bacterial clearance. Using IL-17A knockout (KO) mice, we found that IL-17A boosted neutrophil recruitment to the MEC and afterwards induced apoptosis, which was identified to be conducive to bacterial clearance. In addition, our observation suggested that the p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathway was involved in the recruitment and apoptosis of neutrophils mediated by IL-17A. These data support the conclusion that IL-17A contributes to the host immune response against S. pneumoniae by promoting neutrophil recruitment and apoptosis through the p38 MAPK signaling pathway.
Recent experimental and clinical studies suggest a crucial role of mechanical splenic filtration in the host's defense against malaria parasites. Subtle changes in red blood cell (RBC) deformability, caused by infection or drug treatment, could influence the pathophysiological outcome. However, in vitro deformability measurements have not been directly linked in vivo with the splenic clearance of RBCs. In this study, mice infected with malaria-inducing Plasmodium yoelii revealed that chloroquine treatment could lead to significant alterations to RBC deformability and increase clearance of both infected and uninfected RBCs in vivo. These results have clear implications for the mechanism of human malarial anemia, a severe pathological condition affecting malaria patients.
We evaluated whether a simplified human microbiota consortium (SIHUMI) induces colitis in germfree (GF) 129S6/SvEv (129) and C57BL/6 (B6) interleukin-10-deficient (IL-10−/−) mice, determined mouse strain effects on colitis and the microbiota, examined the effects of inflammation on relative bacterial composition, and identified immunodominant bacterial species in “humanized” IL-10−/− mice. GF wild-type (WT) and IL-10−/− 129 and B6 mice were colonized with 7 human-derived inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)-related intestinal bacteria and maintained under gnotobiotic conditions. Quantification of bacteria in feces, ileal and colonic contents, and tissues was performed using 16S rRNA gene selective quantitative PCR. Colonic segments were scored histologically, and gamma interferon (IFN-γ), IL-12p40, and IL-17 levels were measured in supernatants of unstimulated colonic tissue explants and of mesenteric lymph node (MLN) cells stimulated by lysates of individual or aggregate bacterial strains. Relative bacterial species abundances changed over time and differed between 129 and B6 mice, WT and IL-10−/− mice, luminal and mucosal samples, and ileal and colonic or fecal samples. SIHUMI induced colitis in all IL-10−/− mice, with more aggressive colitis and MLN cell activation in 129 mice. Escherichia coli LF82 and Ruminococcus gnavus lysates induced dominant effector ex vivo MLN TH1 and TH17 responses, although the bacterial mucosal concentrations were low. In summary, this study shows that a simplified human bacterial consortium induces colitis in ex-GF 129 and B6 IL-10−/− mice. Relative concentrations of individual SIHUMI species are determined by host genotype, the presence of inflammation, and anatomical location. A subset of IBD-relevant human enteric bacterial species preferentially stimulates bacterial antigen-specific TH1 and TH17 immune responses in this model, independent of luminal and mucosal bacterial concentrations.
Chlamydial infection in the lower genital tract can lead to hydrosalpinx, which is accompanied by activation of both pattern recognition receptor TLR2- and inflammatory cytokine receptor TNFR1-mediated signaling pathways. In the current study, we compared the relative contributions of these two receptors to chlamydial induction of hydrosalpinx in mice. We found that mice with or without deficiencies in TLR2 or TNFR1 displayed similar time courses of live organism shedding from vaginal swabs, suggesting that these receptor-mediated signaling pathways are not required for controlling chlamydial lower genital infection. However, mice deficient in TNFR1 but not TLR2 developed significantly reduced hydrosalpinx. The decreased pathogenicity correlated with a significant reduction in interleukin-17 by in vitro-restimulated splenocytes of TNFR1-deficient mice. Although TLR2-deficient mice developed hydrosalpinx as severe as that of wild-type mice, peritoneal macrophages from mice deficient in TLR2 but not TNFR1 produced significantly reduced cytokines upon chlamydial stimulation, suggesting that reduced macrophage responses to chlamydial infection do not always lead to a reduction in hydrosalpinx. Thus, we have demonstrated that the signaling pathways triggered by the cytokine receptor TNFR1 play a more significant role in chlamydial induction of hydrosalpinx than those mediated by the pattern recognition receptor TLR2, which has laid a foundation for further revealing the chlamydial pathogenic mechanisms.
Despite the public health challenges associated with the emergence of new pathogenic bacterial strains and/or serotypes, there is a dearth of information regarding the molecular mechanisms that drive this variation. Here, we began to address the mechanisms behind serotype-specific variation between serotype M1 and M3 strains of the human pathogen Streptococcus pyogenes (the group A Streptococcus [GAS]). Spatially diverse contemporary clinical serotype M3 isolates were discovered to contain identical inactivating mutations within genes encoding two regulatory systems that control the expression of important virulence factors, including the thrombolytic agent streptokinase, the protease inhibitor-binding protein-G-related α2-macroglobulin-binding (GRAB) protein, and the antiphagocytic hyaluronic acid capsule. Subsequent analysis of a larger collection of isolates determined that M3 GAS, since at least the 1920s, has harbored a 4-bp deletion in the fasC gene of the fasBCAX regulatory system and an inactivating polymorphism in the rivR regulator-encoding gene. The fasC and rivR mutations in M3 isolates directly affect the virulence factor profile of M3 GAS, as evident by a reduction in streptokinase expression and an enhancement of GRAB expression. Complementation of the fasC mutation in M3 GAS significantly enhanced levels of the small regulatory RNA FasX, which in turn enhanced streptokinase expression. Complementation of the rivR mutation in M3 GAS restored the regulation of grab mRNA abundance but did not alter capsule mRNA levels. While important, the fasC and rivR mutations do not provide a full explanation for why serotype M3 strains are associated with unusually severe invasive infections; thus, further investigation is warranted.
Interleukin-10 (IL-10) curtails immune responses to microbial infection and autoantigens and contributes to intestinal immune homeostasis, yet administration of IL-10 has not been effective at attenuating chronic intestinal inflammatory conditions, suggesting that its immune functions may be context dependent. To gain a broader understanding of the importance of IL-10 in controlling mucosal immune responses to infectious challenges, we employed the murine attaching and effacing pathogen Citrobacter rodentium, which colonizes primarily the surfaces of the cecum and colon and causes transient mucosal inflammation driven by Th17 and Th1 T helper cells. Infection induced macrophage and dendritic cell production of IL-10, which diminished antibacterial host defenses, because IL-10-deficient mice cleared infection faster than wild-type controls. In parallel, the mice had less acute infection-associated colitis and resolved it more rapidly than controls. Importantly, transient C. rodentium infection protected IL-10-deficient mice against the later development of spontaneous colitis that normally occurs with aging in these mice. Genome-wide expression studies revealed that IL-10 deficiency was associated with downregulation of proinflammatory pathways but increased expression of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-27 in response to infection. IL-27 was found to suppress in vitro Th17 and, to a lesser degree, Th1 differentiation independent of IL-10. Furthermore, neutralization of IL-27 resulted in more severe colitis in infected IL-10-deficient mice. Together, these findings indicate that IL-10 is dispensable for resolving C. rodentium-associated colitis and further suggest that IL-27 may be a critical factor for controlling intestinal inflammation and Th17 and Th1 development by IL-10-independent mechanisms.
Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli serotype O157:H7 causes outbreaks of diarrhea, hemorrhagic colitis, and the hemolytic-uremic syndrome. E. coli O157:H7 intimately attaches to epithelial cells, effaces microvilli, and recruits F-actin into pedestals to form attaching and effacing lesions. Lipid rafts serve as signal transduction platforms that mediate microbe-host interactions. The aims of this study were to determine if protein kinase C (PKC) is recruited to lipid rafts in response to E. coli O157:H7 infection and what role it plays in attaching and effacing lesion formation. HEp-2 and intestine 407 tissue culture epithelial cells were challenged with E. coli O157:H7, and cell protein extracts were then separated by buoyant density ultracentrifugation to isolate lipid rafts. Immunoblotting for PKC was performed, and localization in lipid rafts was confirmed with an anti-caveolin-1 antibody. Isoform-specific PKC small interfering RNA (siRNA) was used to determine the role of PKC in E. coli O157:H7-induced attaching and effacing lesions. In contrast to uninfected cells, PKC was recruited to lipid rafts in response to E. coli O157:H7. Metabolically active bacteria and cells with intact lipid rafts were necessary for the recruitment of PKC. PKC recruitment was independent of the intimin gene, type III secretion system, and the production of Shiga toxins. Inhibition studies, using myristoylated PKCζ pseudosubstrate, revealed that atypical PKC isoforms were activated in response to the pathogen. Pretreating cells with isoform-specific PKC siRNA showed that PKCζ plays a role in E. coli O157:H7-induced attaching and effacing lesions. We concluded that lipid rafts mediate atypical PKC signal transduction responses to E. coli O157:H7. These findings contribute further to the understanding of the complex array of microbe-eukaryotic cell interactions that occur in response to infection.
Vibrio cholerae is the causative agent of the diarrheal disease cholera. The ability of V. cholerae to colonize and cause disease requires the intricately regulated expression of a number of virulence factors during infection. One of the signals sensed by V. cholerae is the presence of oxygen-limiting conditions in the gut. It has been shown that the virulence activator AphB plays a key role in sensing low oxygen concentrations and inducing the transcription of another key virulence activator, TcpP. In this study, we used a bacterial two-hybrid system to further examine the effect of oxygen on different virulence regulators. We found that anoxic conditions enhanced the interaction between TcpP and ToxR, identified as the first positive regulator of V. cholerae virulence genes. We further demonstrated that the TcpP-ToxR interaction was dependent on the primary periplasmic protein disulfide formation enzyme DsbA and cysteine residues in the periplasmic domains of both ToxR and TcpP. Furthermore, we showed that in V. cholerae, an interaction between TcpP and ToxR is important for virulence gene induction. Under anaerobic growth conditions, we detected ToxR-TcpP heterodimers, which were abolished in the presence of the reducing agent dithiothreitol. Our results suggest that V. cholerae may sense intestinal anoxic signals by multiple components to activate virulence.
Pneumolysin (Ply) and its variants are protective against pneumococcal infections in animal models, and as a Toll-like receptor 4 agonist, pneumolysin has been reported to be a mucosal adjuvant. DnaJ has been approved as a useful candidate vaccine protein; we therefore designed novel fusion proteins of DnaJ with a form of Ply that has a deletion of A146 (ΔA146Ply-DnaJ [the C terminus of ΔA146Ply connected with the N terminus of DnaJ] and DnaJ-ΔA146Ply [the C terminus of DnaJ connected with the N terminus of ΔA146Ply]) to test whether they are protective against focal and lethal pneumococcal infections and their potential protective mechanisms. The purified proteins were used to intranasally immunize the animals without additional adjuvant. Immunization with DnaJ-ΔA146Ply or DnaJ plus ΔA146Ply (Ply with a single deletion of A146) could significantly reduce S. pneumoniae colonization in the nasopharynx and lung relative with DnaJ alone. Additionally, we observed the best protection for DnaJ-ΔA146Ply-immunized mice after challenge with lethal doses of S. pneumoniae strains, which was comparable to that achieved by PPV23. Mice immunized with DnaJ-ΔA146Ply produced significantly higher levels of anti-DnaJ IgG in serum and secretory IgA (sIgA) in saliva than those immunized with DnaJ alone. The production of IL-17A was also striking in DnaJ-ΔA146Ply-immunized mice. IL-17A knockout (KO) mice did not benefit from DnaJ-ΔA146Ply immunization in colonization experiments, and sIgA production was impaired in IL-17A KO mice. Collectively, our results indicate a mucosal adjuvant potential for ΔA146Ply and that, without additional adjuvant, DnaJ-ΔA146Ply fusion protein exhibits extensive immune stimulation and is effective against pneumococcal challenges, properties which are partially attributed to the IL-17A-mediated immune responses.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an opportunistic pathogen that causes acute and chronic infections in humans. Pyocins are bacteriocins produced by P. aeruginosa that are usually released through lysis of the producer strains. Expression of pyocin genes is negatively regulated by PrtR, which gets cleaved under SOS response, leading to upregulation of pyocin synthetic genes. Previously, we demonstrated that PrtR is required for the expression of type III secretion system (T3SS), which is an important virulence component of P. aeruginosa. In this study, we demonstrate that mutation in prtR results in reduced bacterial colonization in a mouse acute pneumonia model. Examination of bacterial and host cells in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluids from infected mice revealed that expression of PrtR is induced by reactive oxygen species (ROS) released by neutrophils. We further demonstrate that treatment with hydrogen peroxide or ciprofloxacin, known to induce the SOS response and pyocin production, resulted in an elevated PrtR mRNA level. Overexpression of PrtR by a tac promoter repressed the endogenous prtR promoter activity, and electrophoretic mobility shift assay revealed that PrtR binds to its own promoter, suggesting an autorepressive mechanism of regulation. A high level of PrtR expressed from a plasmid resulted in increased T3SS gene expression during infection and higher resistance against ciprofloxacin. Overall, our results suggest that the autorepression of PrtR contributes to the maintenance of a relatively stable level of PrtR, which is permissive to T3SS gene expression in the presence of ROS while increasing bacterial tolerance to stresses, such as ciprofloxacin, by limiting pyocin production.
The bicomponent leukotoxins produced by Staphylococcus aureus kill host immune cells through osmotic lysis by forming β-barrel pores in the host plasma membrane. The current model for bicomponent pore formation proposes that octameric pores, comprised of two separate secreted polypeptides (S and F subunits), are assembled from water-soluble monomers in the extracellular milieu and multimerize on target cell membranes. However, it has yet to be determined if all staphylococcal bicomponent leukotoxin family members exhibit these properties. In this study, we report that leukocidin A/B (LukAB), the most divergent member of the leukotoxin family, exists as a heterodimer in solution rather than two separate monomeric subunits. Notably, this property was found to be associated with enhanced toxin activity. LukAB also differs from the other bicomponent leukotoxins in that the S subunit (LukA) contains 33- and 10-amino-acid extensions at the N and C termini, respectively. Truncation mutagenesis revealed that deletion of the N terminus resulted in a modest increase in LukAB cytotoxicity, whereas the deletion of the C terminus rendered the toxin inactive. Within the C terminus of LukA, we identified a glutamic acid at position 323 that is critical for LukAB cytotoxicity. Furthermore, we discovered that this residue is conserved and required for the interaction between LukAB and its cellular target CD11b. Altogether, these findings provide an in-depth analysis of how LukAB targets neutrophils and identify novel targets suitable for the rational design of anti-LukAB inhibitors.
Cryptococcus neoformans is a human fungal pathogen that often causes lung and brain infections in immunocompromised patients, with a high fatality rate. Our previous results showed that an F-box protein, Fbp1, is essential for Cryptococcus virulence independent of the classical virulence factors, suggesting a novel virulence control mechanism. In this study, we show that Fbp1 is part of the ubiquitin-proteasome system, and we further investigated the mechanism of Fbp1 function during infection. Time course studies revealed that the fbp1Δ mutant causes little damage in the infected lung and that the fungal burden in the lung remains at a low but persistent level throughout infection. The fbp1Δ mutant cannot disseminate to other organs following pulmonary infection in the murine inhalation model of cryptococcosis but still causes brain infection in a murine intravenous injection model, suggesting that the block of dissemination of the fbp1Δ mutant is due to its inability to leave the lung. The fbp1Δ mutant showed a defect in intracellular proliferation after phagocytosis in a Cryptococcus-macrophage interaction assay, which likely contributes to its virulence attenuation. To elucidate the molecular basis of the SCF(Fbp1) E3 ligase function, we analyzed potential Fbp1 substrates based on proteomic approaches combined with phenotypic analysis. One substrate, the inositol phosphosphingolipid-phospholipase C1 (Isc1), is required for fungal survival inside macrophage cells, which is consistent with the role of Fbp1 in regulating Cryptococcus-macrophage interaction and fungal virulence. Our results thus reveal a new determinant of fungal virulence that involves the posttranslational regulation of inositol sphingolipid biosynthesis.