Platelet activation and aggregation have been reported to occur in response to a number of Gram-positive pathogens. Here, we show that platelet aggregates induced by Streptococcus pyogenes were unstable and that viable bacteria escaped from the aggregates over time. This was not due to differential activation in response to the bacteria compared with physiological activators. All the bacterial isolates induced significant platelet activation, including integrin activation and alpha and dense-granule release, at levels equivalent to those induced by potent physiological platelet activators that induced stable aggregates. The ability to escape the aggregates and to resist the antibacterial effects of platelets was dependent on active protein synthesis by the bacteria within the aggregate. We conclude that S. pyogenes bacteria can temporarily cover themselves with activated platelets, and we propose that this may facilitate survival of the bacteria in the presence of platelets.
Haemostasis is maintained by a tightly regulated coagulation system that comprises platelets, procoagulant proteins, and anticoagulant proteins. During the local and systemic response to bacterial infection, the coagulation system becomes activated, and contributes to the pathophysiological response to infection. The significant human pathogen, Streptococcus pyogenes has multiple strategies to modulate coagulation. This can range from systemic activation of the intrinsic and extrinsic pathway of coagulation to local stimulation of fibrinolysis. Such diverse effects on this host system imply a finely tuned host-bacteria interaction. The molecular mechanisms that underlie this modulation of the coagulation system are discussed in this review.
Platelets have been reported to contribute to inflammation and inflammatory disorders. In the present study, we demonstrate that platelets contribute to the acute response to bacterial infection in a mouse model of invasive Streptococcus pyogenes infection. Thrombocytopenia occurred rapidly in infected animals and this was associated with platelet activation, formation of platelet-neutrophil complexes and neutrophil activation. In order to assess the role of platelets during infection, platelets were depleted prior to infection. Platelet-depleted animals had significantly decreased platelet-neutrophil complex formation and neutrophil activation in response to infection. Importantly, significantly fewer bacteria disseminated to the blood, lungs, and spleen of platelet-depleted animals. Platelet-depleted animals did not decrease as significantly in weight as the infected control animals. The results demonstrate a previously unappreciated role for platelets during the pathophysiological response to infection, whereby S. pyogenes bacteria bind to platelets and platelets facilitate bacterial dissemination.
Chemokines and chemokine receptor-mediated effects are important mediators of the immunological response and cure in human leishmaniasis. However, in addition to their signalling properties for leukocytes, many chemokines have also been shown to act directly as antimicrobial peptides on bacteria and fungi. We screened ten human chemokines (CXCL2, CXCL6, CXCL8, CXCL9, CXCL10, CCL2, CCL3, CCL20, CCL27, CCL28) for antimicrobial effects on the promastigote form of the protozoan parasite Leishmania mexicana, and observed direct parasiticidal effects of several, CCL28 being the most potent. Damage to the plasma membrane integrity could be visualised by entrance of propidium iodide, as measured with flow cytometry, and by scanning electron microscopy, which showed morphological changes and aggregation of cells. The findings were in concordance with parasiticidal activity, measured by decreased mitochondrial activity in an MTT-assay. This is the first report of direct antimicrobial activity by chemokines on parasites. This component of immunity against Leishmania parasites identified here warrants further investigation that might lead to new insight in the mechanisms of human infection and/or new therapeutic approaches.
Many Gram-positive pathogens aggregate and activate platelets in vitro and this has been proposed to contribute to virulence. Platelets can also form complexes with neutrophils but little is however known about platelet and platelet-neutrophil responses in bacterial infection.
Recent studies have shown that activation of complement and contact systems results in the generation of antibacterial peptides. Streptococcus pyogenes, a major bacterial pathogen in humans, exists in >100 different serotypes due to sequence variation in the surface-associated M protein. Cases of invasive and life-threatening S. pyogenes infections are commonly associated with isolates of the M1 serotype, and in contrast to the large majority of M serotypes, M1 isolates all secrete the SIC protein. Here, we show that SIC interferes with the activation of the contact system and blocks the activity of antibacterial peptides generated through complement and contact activation. This effect promotes the growth of S. pyogenes in human plasma, and in a mouse model of S. pyogenes sepsis, SIC enhances bacterial dissemination, results which help explain the high frequency of severe S. pyogenes infections caused by isolates of the M1 serotype.
The Gram-positive bacterium Aerococcus urinae can cause infectious endocarditis (IE) in older persons. Biofilm formation and platelet aggregation are believed to contribute to bacterial virulence in IE. Five A. urinae isolates from human blood were shown to form biofilms in vitro, and biofilm formation was enhanced by the presence of human plasma. Four of the A. urinae isolates caused platelet aggregation in platelet-rich plasma from healthy donors. The Au3 isolate, which induced platelet aggregation in all donors, also activated platelets, as determined by flow cytometry. Platelet aggregation was dependent on bacterial protein structures and on platelet activation since it was sensitive to both trypsin and prostaglandin E(1). Plasma proteins at the bacterial surface were needed for platelet aggregation; and roles of the complement system, fibrinogen, and immunoglobulin G were demonstrated. Complement-depleted serum was unable to support platelet aggregation by Au3 and complement blockade using compstatin-inhibited platelet activation. Platelet activation by Au3 was inhibited by blocking of the platelet fibrinogen receptor, and this isolate was also shown to bind to radiolabeled fibrinogen. Removal of IgG from platelet-rich plasma by a specific protease inhibited the platelet aggregation induced by A. urinae, and blockade of the platelet FcR?IIa hindered platelet activation induced by Au3. Convalescent-phase serum from a patient with A. urinae IE transferred the ability of the bacterium to aggregate platelets in an otherwise nonresponsive donor. Our results show that A. urinae exhibits virulence strategies of importance for IE.
Streptococcus pyogenes is a significant bacterial pathogen in humans. In this study, histidine-rich glycoprotein (HRG), an abundant plasma protein, was found to kill S pyogenes. Furthermore, S pyogenes grew more efficiently in HRG-deficient plasma, and clots formed in this plasma were significantly less effective at bacterial entrapment and killing. HRG-deficient mice were strikingly more susceptible to S pyogenes infection. These animals failed to control the infection at the local subcutaneous site, and abscess formation and inflammation were diminished compared with control animals. As a result, bacterial dissemination occurred more rapidly in HRG-deficient mice, and they died earlier and with a significantly higher mortality rate than control animals. HRG-deficient mice supplemented with purified HRG gave the same phenotype as control animals, demonstrating that the lack of HRG was responsible for the increased susceptibility. The results demonstrate a previously unappreciated role for HRG as a regulator of inflammation and in the defense at the local site of bacterial infection.
Group A streptococci (GAS, Streptococcus pyogenes) are exclusive human pathogens that have been extensively studied for many decades. The spectrum of diseases caused by these bacteria ranges from uncomplicated and superficial to severe and invasive infections. In order to give rise to these complications, GAS have evolved a number of surface-bound and secreted virulence factors, of which the M proteins are probably the best characterized. Evidence has emerged that M proteins are multifunctional pathogenic determinants, and over the years many interactions between M proteins and the human host have been reported. The present review article aims to present a state-of-the-art overview of the most important virulence mechanisms employed by M proteins to trigger disease.
Many endocarditis pathogens activate human platelets and this has been proposed to contribute to virulence. Here we report for the first time that many clinical isolates of Enterococcus faecalis, a common pathogen in infective endocarditis, aggregate human platelets. 84 isolates from human blood and urine were screened for their ability to aggregate platelets from four different donors. Platelet aggregation occurred for between 11 and 65% of isolates depending on the donor. In one donor, a significantly larger proportion of isolates from blood than from urine caused platelet aggregation. Median time to aggregation was 11 min and had a tendency to be shorter for blood isolates as compared to urine isolates. Immunoglobulin G (IgG) was shown to be essential in mediating activation and aggregation. Platelet aggregation could be abolished by an IgG-specific proteinase (IdeS), by an antibody blocking FcRgammaIIa on platelets, or by preabsorption of plasma with an E. faecalis isolate. Fibrinogen binding to bacteria or platelets does not contribute to platelet activation or aggregation under our experimental conditions. These results indicate that platelet activation and aggregation by E. faecalis is dependent on both host and bacterial factors and that it may be involved in the pathogenesis of invasive disease with this organism.
Protein C inhibitor (PCI) is a heparin-binding serine proteinase inhibitor belonging to the family of serpin proteins. Here we describe that PCI exerts broad antimicrobial activity against bacterial pathogens. This ability is mediated by the interaction of PCI with lipid membranes, which subsequently leads to their permeabilization. As shown by negative staining electron microscopy, treatment of Escherichia coli or Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria with PCI triggers membrane disruption followed by the efflux of bacterial cytosolic contents and bacterial killing. The antimicrobial activity of PCI is located to the heparin-binding site of the protein and a peptide spanning this region was found to mimic the antimicrobial activity of PCI, without causing lysis or membrane destruction of eukaryotic cells. Finally, we show that platelets can assemble PCI on their surface upon activation. As platelets are recruited to the site of a bacterial infection, these results may explain our finding that PCI levels are increased in tissue biopsies from patients suffering from necrotizing fasciitis caused by S. pyogenes. Taken together, our data describe a new function for PCI in innate immunity.
Sepsis and septic shock remain an important medical problem, emphasizing the need to identify novel therapeutic opportunities. Hypovolemic hypotension, coagulation dysfunction, disturbed microcirculation, and multiorgan failure resulting from vascular leakage are often observed in these severe conditions. In the present study, we find that HKH20, a peptide derived from human high molecular weight kininogen (HK), down-regulates inflammatory reactions caused by Streptococcus pyogenes in a mouse model of sepsis. HK is a component of the pro-inflammatory and pro-coagulant contact system. Activation of the contact system in the bloodstream by S pyogenes leads to massive tissue damage in the lungs of the infected mice, which eventually results in the death of the animals. HKH20 inhibits activation of the contact system and protects mice with invasive S pyogenes infection from lung damage. In combination with clindamycin treatment, the peptide also significantly prolongs the survival of infected mice.
The marketplace for probiotic foods is burgeoning, measured in billions of euro per annum. It is imperative, however, that all bacterial strains are fully assessed for human safety. The ability to bind fibrinogen is considered a potential pathogenicity trait that can lead to platelet aggregation, serious medical complications, and in some instances, death. Here we examined strains from species frequently used as probiotics for their ability to bind human fibrinogen. Only one strain (CCUG 47825), a Lactobacillus salivarius isolate from a case of septicaemia, was found to strongly adhere to fibrinogen. Furthermore, this strain was found to aggregate human platelets at a level comparable to the human pathogen Staphylococcus aureus. By sequencing the genome of CCUG 47825, we were able to identify candidate genes responsible for fibrinogen binding. Complementing the genetic analysis with traditional molecular microbiological techniques enabled the identification of the novel fibrinogen receptor, CCUG_2371. Although only strain CCUG 47825 bound fibrinogen under laboratory conditions, homologues of the novel fibrinogen binding gene CCUG_2371 are widespread among L. salivarius strains, maintaining their potential to bind fibrinogen if expressed. We highlight the fact that without a full genetic analysis of strains for human consumption, potential pathogenicity traits may go undetected.
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