Multiple growth factors are known to control several aspects of neuronal biology, consecutively acting as morphogens to diversify neuronal fates, as guidance cues for axonal growth, and as modulators of survival or death to regulate neuronal numbers. The multiplicity of neuronal types is permitted by the combinatorial usage of growth factor receptors, each of which is expressed in distinct and overlapping subsets of neurons, and by the multitasking role of growth factor receptors, which recruit multiple signalling cascades differentially required for distinct biological outcomes. We have explored signalling robustness in cells where a given receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) elicits qualitatively distinct outcomes. As the HGF/Met system regulates several biological responses in motor neurons (MN) during neuromuscular development, we have investigated the signalling modalities through which the HGF/Met system impacts on MN biology, and the degree of robustness of each of these functions, when challenged with substitutions of signalling pathways.
Brucellosis is a worldwide extended zoonosis caused by Brucella spp. These gram-negative bacteria are not readily detected by innate immunity, a virulence-related property largely linked to their surface lipopolysaccharide (LPS). The role of the LPS lipid A and O-polysaccharide in virulence is well known. Moreover, mutation of the glycosyltransferase gene wadC of Brucella abortus, although not affecting O-polysaccharide assembly onto the lipid-A core section causes a core oligosaccharide defect that increases recognition by innate immunity. Here, we report on a second gene (wadB) encoding a LPS core glycosyltransferase not involved in the assembly of the O-polysaccharide-linked core section. As compared to wild-type B. abortus, a wadB mutant was sensitive to bactericidal peptides and non-immune serum, and was attenuated in mice and dendritic cells. These observations show that as WadC, WadB is also involved in the assembly of a branch of Brucella LPS core and support the concept that this LPS section is a virulence-related structure.
Polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMNs) are the first line of defense against microbial pathogens. In addition to their role in innate immunity, PMNs may also regulate events related to adaptive immunity. To investigate the influence of PMNs in the immune response during chronic bacterial infections, we explored the course of brucellosis in antibody PMN-depleted C57BL/6 mice and in neutropenic mutant Genista mouse model. We demonstrate that at later times of infection, Brucella abortus is killed more efficiently in the absence of PMNs than in their presence. The higher bacterial removal was concomitant to the: i) comparatively reduced spleen swelling; ii) augmented infiltration of epithelioid histiocytes corresponding to macrophages/dendritic cells (DCs); iii) higher recruitment of monocytes and monocyte/DCs phenotype; iv) significant activation of B and T lymphocytes, and v) increased levels of INF-? and negligible levels of IL4 indicating a balance of Th1 over Th2 response. These results reveal that PMNs have an unexpected influence in dampening the immune response against intracellular Brucella infection and strengthen the notion that PMNs actively participate in regulatory circuits shaping both innate and adaptive immunity.
Brucellae replicate in a vacuole derived from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) in epithelial cells, macrophages, and dendritic cells. In animals, trophoblasts are also key cellular targets where brucellae efficiently replicate in association with the ER. Therefore, we investigated the ability of Brucella spp. to infect human trophoblasts using both immortalized and primary trophoblasts. Brucella extensively proliferated within different subpopulations of trophoblasts, suggesting that they constitute an important niche in cases where the fetal-maternal barrier is breached. In extravillous trophoblasts (EVTs), B. abortus and B. suis replicated within single-membrane acidic lysosomal membrane-associated protein 1-positive inclusions, whereas B. melitensis replicated in the ER-derived compartment. Furthermore, B. melitensis but not B. abortus nor B. suis interfered with the invasive capacity of EVT-like cells in vitro. Because EVTs are essential for implantation during early stages of pregnancy, the nature of the replication niche may have a central role during Brucella-associated abortion in infected women.
CD4(+) T cells display a variety of helper functions necessary for an efficient adaptive immune response against bacterial invaders. This work reports the in vivo identification and characterization of murine cytotoxic CD4(+) T cells (CD4(+) CTL) during Brucella abortus infection. These CD4(+) CTLs express granzyme B and exhibit immunophenotypic features consistent with fully differentiated T cells. They express CD25, CD44, CD62L ,CD43 molecules at their surface and produce IFN-?. Moreover, these cells express neither the co-stimulatory molecule CD27 nor the memory T cell marker CD127. We show here that CD4(+) CTLs are capable of cytolytic action against Brucella-infected antigen presenting cells (APC) but not against Mycobacterium-infected APC. Cytotoxic CD4(+) T cell population appears at early stages of the infection concomitantly with high levels of IFN-? and granzyme B expression. CD4(+) CTLs represent a so far uncharacterized immune cell sub-type triggered by early immune responses upon Brucella abortus infection.
The precise control of motor neuron (MN) death and survival following initial innervation of skeletal muscle targets is a key step in sculpting a functional motor system, but how this is regulated at the level of individual motor pools remains unclear. Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) and its receptor Met play key developmental roles in both muscle and MNs. We generated mice (termed "Nes-Met") in which met is inactivated from midembryonic stages onward in the CNS only. Adult animals showed motor behavioral defects suggestive of impaired innervation of pectoral muscles. Correspondingly, in neonatal spinal cords of Nes-Met mutants, we observed death of a discrete population of pea3-expressing MNs at brachial levels. Axonal tracing using pea3 reporter mice revealed a novel target muscle of pea3-expressing MNs: the pectoralis minor muscle. In Nes-Met mice, the pectoralis minor pool initially innervated its target muscle, but required HGF/Met for survival, hence for proper maintenance of muscle innervation. In contrast, HGF/Met was dispensable for the survival of neighboring Met-expressing MN pools, despite its earlier functions for their specification and axon growth. Our results demonstrate the exquisite degree to which outcomes of signaling by receptor tyrosine kinases are regulated on a cell-by-cell basis. They also provide a model for one way in which the multiplicity of neurotrophic factors may allow for regulation of MN numbers in a pool-specific manner.
The brucellae are ?-Proteobacteria facultative intracellular parasites that cause an important zoonosis. These bacteria escape early detection by innate immunity, an ability associated to the absence of marked pathogen-associated molecular patterns in the cell envelope lipopolysaccharide, lipoproteins and flagellin. We show here that, in contrast to the outer membrane ornithine lipids (OL) of other Gram negative bacteria, Brucella abortus OL lack a marked pathogen-associated molecular pattern activity. We identified two OL genes (olsB and olsA) and by generating the corresponding mutants found that olsB deficient B. abortus did not synthesize OL or their lyso-OL precursors. Liposomes constructed with B. abortus OL did not trigger IL-6 or TNF-? release by macrophages whereas those constructed with Bordetella pertussis OL and the olsB mutant lipids as carriers were highly active. The OL deficiency in the olsB mutant did not promote proinflammatory responses or generated attenuation in mice. In addition, OL deficiency did not increase sensitivity to polymyxins, normal serum or complement consumption, or alter the permeability to antibiotics and dyes. Taken together, these observations indicate that OL have become dispensable in the extant brucellae and are consistent within the trend observed in ?-Proteobacteria animal pathogens to reduce and eventually eliminate the envelope components susceptible of recognition by innate immunity.
The intracellular pathogen Brucella abortus survives and replicates inside host cells within an endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-derived replicative organelle named the "Brucella-containing vacuole" (BCV). Here, we developed a subcellular fractionation method to isolate BCVs and characterize for the first time the protein composition of its replicative niche. After identification of BCV membrane proteins by 2 dimensional (2D) gel electrophoresis and mass spectrometry, we focused on two eukaryotic proteins: the glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) and the small GTPase Rab 2 recruited to the vacuolar membrane of Brucella. These proteins were previously described to localize on vesicular and tubular clusters (VTC) and to regulate the VTC membrane traffic between the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and the Golgi. Inhibition of either GAPDH or Rab 2 expression by small interfering RNA strongly inhibited B. abortus replication. Consistent with this result, inhibition of other partners of GAPDH and Rab 2, such as COPI and PKC iota, reduced B. abortus replication. Furthermore, blockage of Rab 2 GTPase in a GDP-locked form also inhibited B. abortus replication. Bacteria did not fuse with the ER and instead remained in lysosomal-associated membrane vacuoles. These results reveal an essential role for GAPDH and the small GTPase Rab 2 in B. abortus virulence within host cells.
The gram-negative bacteria of the genus Brucella are facultative intracellular parasites that cause brucellosis, a world wide-distributed zoonotic disease that represents a serious problem for animal and human health. There is no human-to-human contagion and, since there is no human vaccine, animal vaccination is essential to control brucellosis. However, current vaccines (all developed empirically) do not provide 100% protection and are infectious in humans. Attempts to generate new vaccines by obtaining mutants lacking the lipopolysaccharide O-polysaccharide, in purine metabolism or in Brucella type IV secretion system have not been successful. Here we propose a new approach to develop brucellosis vaccines based on the concept that Brucella surface molecules evade efficient detection by innate immunity, thus delaying protective Th1 responses and opening a time window to reach sheltered intracellular compartments. We showed recently that a branch of the core oligosaccharide section of Brucella lipopolysaccharide hampers recognition by TLR4-MD2. Mutation of glycosyltransferase WadC, involved in the synthesis of this branch, results in a lipopolysaccharide that, while keeping the O-polysaccharide essential for optimal protection, shows a truncated core, is more efficiently recognized by MD2 and triggers an increased cytokine response. In keeping with this, the wadC mutant is attenuated in dendritic cells and mice. In the mouse model of brucellosis vaccines, the Brucella abortus wadC mutant conferred protection similar to that provided by S19, the best cattle vaccine available. The properties of the wadC mutant provide the proof of concept for this new approach and open the way for more effective brucellosis vaccines.
Innate immunity recognizes bacterial molecules bearing pathogen-associated molecular patterns to launch inflammatory responses leading to the activation of adaptive immunity. However, the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) of the gram-negative bacterium Brucella lacks a marked pathogen-associated molecular pattern, and it has been postulated that this delays the development of immunity, creating a gap that is critical for the bacterium to reach the intracellular replicative niche. We found that a B. abortus mutant in the wadC gene displayed a disrupted LPS core while keeping both the LPS O-polysaccharide and lipid A. In mice, the wadC mutant induced proinflammatory responses and was attenuated. In addition, it was sensitive to killing by non-immune serum and bactericidal peptides and did not multiply in dendritic cells being targeted to lysosomal compartments. In contrast to wild type B. abortus, the wadC mutant induced dendritic cell maturation and secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines. All these properties were reproduced by the wadC mutant purified LPS in a TLR4-dependent manner. Moreover, the core-mutated LPS displayed an increased binding to MD-2, the TLR4 co-receptor leading to subsequent increase in intracellular signaling. Here we show that Brucella escapes recognition in early stages of infection by expressing a shield against recognition by innate immunity in its LPS core and identify a novel virulence mechanism in intracellular pathogenic gram-negative bacteria. These results also encourage for an improvement in the generation of novel bacterial vaccines.
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