Inflammasome-mediated host defenses have been extensively studied in innate immune cells. Whether inflammasomes function for innate defense in intestinal epithelial cells, which represent the first line of defense against enteric pathogens, remains unknown. We observed enhanced Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium colonization in the intestinal epithelium of caspase-11-deficient mice, but not at systemic sites. In polarized epithelial monolayers, siRNA-mediated depletion of caspase-4, a human ortholog of caspase-11, also led to increased bacterial colonization. Decreased rates of pyroptotic cell death, a host defense mechanism that extrudes S. Typhimurium-infected cells from the polarized epithelium, accounted for increased pathogen burdens. The caspase-4 inflammasome also governs activation of the proinflammatory cytokine, interleukin (IL)-18, in response to intracellular (S. Typhimurium) and extracellular (enteropathogenic Escherichia coli) enteric pathogens, via intracellular LPS sensing. Therefore, an epithelial cell-intrinsic noncanonical inflammasome plays a critical role in antimicrobial defense at the intestinal mucosal surface.
When bacterial colonies age most cells enter a stationary phase, but sub-populations of mutant bacteria can continue to grow and accumulate. These sub-populations include bacteria with mutations in rpoB (RNA polymerase ?-subunit) or rpoS (RNA polymerase stress-response sigma factor). Here we have identified acetate as a nutrient present in the aging colonies that is utilized by these mutant subpopulations to support their continued growth. Proteome analysis of aging colonies showed that several proteins involved in acetate conversion and utilization were upregulated during aging. Acetate is known to be excreted during the exponential growth phase but can be imported later during the transition to stationary phase and converted to acetyl-CoA. Acetyl-CoA is used in multiple processes, including feeding into the TCA cycle, generating ATP via the glyoxylate shunt, as a source of acetyl groups for protein modification, and to support fatty acid biosynthesis. We showed that deletion of acs (encodes acetyl-CoA synthetase; converts acetate into acetyl-CoA) significantly reduced the accumulation of rpoB and rpoS mutant subpopulations on aging colonies. Measurement of radioactive acetate uptake showed that the rate of conversion decreased in aging wild-type colonies, was maintained at a constant level in the rpoB mutant, and significantly increased in the aging rpoS mutant. Finally, we showed that the growth of subpopulations on aging colonies was greatly enhanced if the aging colony itself was unable to utilize acetate, leaving more acetate available for mutant subpopulations to use. Accordingly, the data show that the accumulation of subpopulations of rpoB and rpoS mutants on aging colonies is supported by the availability in the aging colony of acetate, and by the ability of the subpopulation cells to convert the acetate to acetyl-CoA.
Mutations in rpoB (RNA polymerase ?-subunit) can cause high-level resistance to rifampicin, an important first-line drug against tuberculosis. Most rifampicin-resistant (Rif(R)) mutants selected in vitro have reduced fitness, and resistant clinical isolates of M. tuberculosis frequently carry multiple mutations in RNA polymerase genes. This supports a role for compensatory evolution in global epidemics of drug-resistant tuberculosis but the significance of secondary mutations outside rpoB has not been demonstrated or quantified. Using Salmonella as a model organism, and a previously characterized Rif(R) mutation (rpoB R529C) as a starting point, independent lineages were evolved with selection for improved growth in the presence and absence of rifampicin. Compensatory mutations were identified in every lineage and were distributed between rpoA, rpoB and rpoC. Resistance was maintained in all strains showing that increased fitness by compensatory mutation was more likely than reversion. Genetic reconstructions demonstrated that the secondary mutations were responsible for increasing growth rate. Many of the compensatory mutations in rpoA and rpoC individually caused small but significant reductions in susceptibility to rifampicin, and some compensatory mutations in rpoB individually caused high-level resistance. These findings show that mutations in different components of RNA polymerase are responsible for fitness compensation of a Rif(R) mutant.
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