Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Journal: PLoS pathogens


Insects counter infection with innate immune responses that rely on cells called hemocytes. Hemocytes exist in association with the insect’s open circulatory system and this mode of existence has likely influenced the organization and control of anti-pathogen immune responses. Previous studies reported that pathogens in the mosquito body cavity (hemocoel) accumulate on the surface of the heart. Using novel cell staining, microdissection and intravital imaging techniques, we investigated the mechanism of pathogen accumulation in the pericardium of the malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae, and discovered a novel insect immune tissue, herein named periostial hemocytes, that sequesters pathogens as they flow with the hemolymph. Specifically, we show that there are two types of endocytic cells that flank the heart: periostial hemocytes and pericardial cells. Resident periostial hemocytes engage in the rapid phagocytosis of pathogens, and during the course of a bacterial or Plasmodium infection, circulating hemocytes migrate to the periostial regions where they bind the cardiac musculature and each other, and continue the phagocytosis of invaders. Periostial hemocyte aggregation occurs in a time- and infection dose-dependent manner, and once this immune process is triggered, the number of periostial hemocytes remains elevated for the lifetime of the mosquito. Finally, the soluble immune elicitors peptidoglycan and β-1,3-glucan also induce periostial hemocyte aggregation, indicating that this is a generalized and basal immune response that is induced by diverse immune stimuli. These data describe a novel insect cellular immune response that fundamentally relies on the physiological interaction between the insect circulatory and immune systems.

Concepts: Immune system, Bacteria, Blood, Malaria, Innate immune system, Heart, Immunology, Humoral immunity


Hantaviruses are among the most important zoonotic pathogens of humans and the subject of heightened global attention. Despite the importance of hantaviruses for public health, there is no consensus on their evolutionary history and especially the frequency of virus-host co-divergence versus cross-species virus transmission. Documenting the extent of hantavirus biodiversity, and particularly their range of mammalian hosts, is critical to resolving this issue. Here, we describe four novel hantaviruses (Huangpi virus, Lianghe virus, Longquan virus, and Yakeshi virus) sampled from bats and shrews in China, and which are distinct from other known hantaviruses. Huangpi virus was found in Pipistrellus abramus, Lianghe virus in Anourosorex squamipes, Longquan virus in Rhinolophus affinis, Rhinolophus sinicus, and Rhinolophus monoceros, and Yakeshi virus in Sorex isodon, respectively. A phylogenetic analysis of the available diversity of hantaviruses reveals the existence of four phylogroups that infect a range of mammalian hosts, as well as the occurrence of ancient reassortment events between the phylogroups. Notably, the phylogenetic histories of the viruses are not always congruent with those of their hosts, suggesting that cross-species transmission has played a major role during hantavirus evolution and at all taxonomic levels, although we also noted some evidence for virus-host co-divergence. Our phylogenetic analysis also suggests that hantaviruses might have first appeared in Chiroptera (bats) or Soricomorpha (moles and shrews), before emerging in rodent species. Overall, these data indicate that bats are likely to be important natural reservoir hosts of hantaviruses.

Concepts: Evolution, Microbiology, Species, Mammal, Rodent, Bat, Zoonosis, Natural reservoir


Borrelia burgdorferi, the agent of Lyme disease, has cholesterol and cholesterol-glycolipids that are essential for bacterial fitness, are antigenic, and could be important in mediating interactions with cells of the eukaryotic host. We show that the spirochetes can acquire cholesterol from plasma membranes of epithelial cells. In addition, through fluorescent and confocal microscopy combined with biochemical approaches, we demonstrated that B. burgdorferi labeled with the fluorescent cholesterol analog BODIPY-cholesterol or (3)H-labeled cholesterol transfer both cholesterol and cholesterol-glycolipids to HeLa cells. The transfer occurs through two different mechanisms, by direct contact between the bacteria and eukaryotic cell and/or through release of outer membrane vesicles. Thus, two-way lipid exchange between spirochetes and host cells can occur. This lipid exchange could be an important process that contributes to the pathogenesis of Lyme disease.

Concepts: Archaea, Bacteria, Eukaryote, Cell membrane, Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, Borrelia, Spirochaete


Quorum sensing (QS) is a bacterial cell-cell communication process that relies on the production and detection of extracellular signal molecules called autoinducers. QS allows bacteria to perform collective activities. Vibrio cholerae, a pathogen that causes an acute disease, uses QS to repress virulence factor production and biofilm formation. Thus, molecules that activate QS in V. cholerae have the potential to control pathogenicity in this globally important bacterium. Using a whole-cell high-throughput screen, we identified eleven molecules that activate V. cholerae QS: eight molecules are receptor agonists and three molecules are antagonists of LuxO, the central NtrC-type response regulator that controls the global V. cholerae QS cascade. The LuxO inhibitors act by an uncompetitive mechanism by binding to the pre-formed LuxO-ATP complex to inhibit ATP hydrolysis. Genetic analyses suggest that the inhibitors bind in close proximity to the Walker B motif. The inhibitors display broad-spectrum capability in activation of QS in Vibrio species that employ LuxO. To the best of our knowledge, these are the first molecules identified that inhibit the ATPase activity of a NtrC-type response regulator. Our discovery supports the idea that exploiting pro-QS molecules is a promising strategy for the development of novel anti-infectives.

Concepts: Bacteria, Microbiology, Receptor antagonist, Biofilm, Vibrio cholerae, Bioluminescence, Vibrio


Respiratory infectious diseases are mainly caused by viruses or bacteria that often interact with one another. Although their presence is a prerequisite for subsequent infections, viruses and bacteria may be present in the nasopharynx without causing any respiratory symptoms. The upper respiratory tract hosts a vast range of commensals and potential pathogenic bacteria, which form a complex microbial community. This community is assumed to be constantly subject to synergistic and competitive interspecies interactions. Disturbances in the equilibrium, for instance due to the acquisition of new bacteria or viruses, may lead to overgrowth and invasion. A better understanding of the dynamics between commensals and pathogens in the upper respiratory tract may provide better insight into the pathogenesis of respiratory diseases. Here we review the current knowledge regarding specific bacterial-bacterial and viral-bacterial interactions that occur in the upper respiratory niche, and discuss mechanisms by which these interactions might be mediated. Finally, we propose a theoretical model to summarize and illustrate these mechanisms.

Concepts: Immune system, Infectious disease, Bacteria, Microbiology, Infection, Pathogen, Respiratory system, Pathogenic bacteria


Phytopathogenic oomycetes, such as Phytophthora infestans, secrete an arsenal of effector proteins that modulate plant innate immunity to enable infection. We describe CRN8, a host-translocated effector of P. infestans that has kinase activity in planta. CRN8 is a modular protein of the CRN effector family. The C-terminus of CRN8 localizes to the host nucleus and triggers cell death when the protein is expressed in planta. Cell death induction by CRN8 is dependent on its localization to the plant nucleus, which requires a functional nuclear localization signal (NLS). The C-terminal sequence of CRN8 has similarity to a serine/threonine RD kinase domain. We demonstrated that CRN8 is a functional RD kinase and that its auto-phosphorylation is dependent on an intact catalytic site. Co-immunoprecipitation experiments revealed that CRN8 forms a dimer or multimer. Heterologous expression of CRN8 in planta resulted in enhanced virulence by P. infestans. In contrast, in planta expression of the dominant-negative CRN8(R469A;D470A) resulted in reduced P. infestans infection, further implicating CRN8 in virulence. Overall, our results indicate that similar to animal parasites, plant pathogens also translocate biochemically active kinase effectors inside host cells.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Cell, Bacteria, Enzyme, Cell biology, Cell wall, Phytophthora infestans


Finding bacterial cellular targets for developing novel antibiotics has become a major challenge in fighting resistant pathogenic bacteria. We present a novel compound, Relacin, designed to inhibit (p)ppGpp production by the ubiquitous bacterial enzyme RelA that triggers the Stringent Response. Relacin inhibits RelA in vitro and reduces (p)ppGpp production in vivo. Moreover, Relacin affects entry into stationary phase in Gram positive bacteria, leading to a dramatic reduction in cell viability. When Relacin is added to sporulating Bacillus subtilis cells, it strongly perturbs spore formation regardless of the time of addition. Spore formation is also impeded in the pathogenic bacterium Bacillus anthracis that causes the acute anthrax disease. Finally, the formation of multicellular biofilms is markedly disrupted by Relacin. Thus, we establish that Relacin, a novel ppGpp analogue, interferes with bacterial long term survival strategies, placing it as an attractive new antibacterial agent.

Concepts: Bacteria, Microbiology, Pathogen, Bacillus, Antibiotic, Pathogenic bacteria, Anthrax, Bacteriology


Acinetobacter baumannii is an important nosocomial pathogen that accounts for up to 20 percent of infections in intensive care units worldwide. Furthermore, A. baumannii strains have emerged that are resistant to all available antimicrobials. These facts highlight the dire need for new therapeutic strategies to combat this growing public health threat. Given the critical role for transition metals at the pathogen-host interface, interrogating the role for these metals in A. baumannii physiology and pathogenesis could elucidate novel therapeutic strategies. Toward this end, the role for calprotectin- (CP)-mediated chelation of manganese (Mn) and zinc (Zn) in defense against A. baumannii was investigated. These experiments revealed that CP inhibits A. baumannii growth in vitro through chelation of Mn and Zn. Consistent with these in vitro data, Imaging Mass Spectrometry revealed that CP accompanies neutrophil recruitment to the lung and accumulates at foci of infection in a murine model of A. baumannii pneumonia. CP contributes to host survival and control of bacterial replication in the lung and limits dissemination to secondary sites. Using CP as a probe identified an A. baumannii Zn acquisition system that contributes to Zn uptake, enabling this organism to resist CP-mediated metal chelation, which enhances pathogenesis. Moreover, evidence is provided that Zn uptake across the outer membrane is an energy-dependent process in A. baumannii. Finally, it is shown that Zn limitation reverses carbapenem resistance in multidrug resistant A. baumannii underscoring the clinical relevance of these findings. Taken together, these data establish Zn acquisition systems as viable therapeutic targets to combat multidrug resistant A. baumannii infections.

Concepts: Microbiology, Nosocomial infection, Antibiotic resistance, Zinc, Pseudomonadales, Acinetobacter baumannii, Acinetobacter, Moraxellaceae


Quorum sensing (QS) signaling allows bacteria to control gene expression once a critical population density is achieved. The Gram-negative human pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa uses N-acylhomoserine lactones (AHL) as QS signals, which coordinate the production of virulence factors and biofilms. These bacterial signals can also modulate human cell behavior. Little is known about the mechanisms of the action of AHL on their eukaryotic targets. Here, we found that N-3-oxo-dodecanoyl-L-homoserine lactone 3O-C(12)-HSL modulates human intestinal epithelial Caco-2 cell migration in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Using new 3O-C(12)-HSL biotin and fluorescently-tagged probes for LC-MS/MS and confocal imaging, respectively, we demonstrated for the first time that 3O-C(12)-HSL interacts and co-localizes with the IQ-motif-containing GTPase-activating protein IQGAP1 in Caco-2 cells. The interaction between IQGAP1 and 3O-C(12)-HSL was further confirmed by pull-down assay using a GST-tagged protein with subsequent Western blot of IQGAP1 and by identifying 3O-C(12)-HSL with a sensor bioassay. Moreover, 3O-C(12)-HSL induced changes in the phosphorylation status of Rac1 and Cdc42 and the localization of IQGAP1 as evidenced by confocal and STED microscopy and Western blots. Our findings suggest that the IQGAP1 is a novel partner for P.aeruginosa 3O-C(12)-HSL and likely the integrator of Rac1 and Cdc42- dependent altered cell migration. We propose that the targeting of IQGAP1 by 3O-C(12)-HSL can trigger essential changes in the cytoskeleton network and be an essential component in bacterial - human cell communication.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Cell nucleus, Gene expression, Cell, Bacteria, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Biofilm


Cryptococcus neoformans is a ubiquitous human fungal pathogen. This pathogen can undergo morphotype transition between the yeast and the filamentous form and such morphological transition has been implicated in virulence for decades. Morphotype transition is typically observed during mating, which is governed by pheromone signaling. Paradoxically, components specific to the pheromone signaling pathways play no or minimal direct roles in virulence. Thus, the link between morphotype transition and virulence and the underlying molecular mechanism remain elusive. Here, we demonstrate that filamentation can occur independent of pheromone signaling and mating, and both mating-dependent and mating-independent morphotype transition require the transcription factor Znf2. High expression of Znf2 is necessary and sufficient to initiate and maintain sex-independent filamentous growth under host-relevant conditions in vitro and during infection. Importantly, ZNF2 overexpression abolishes fungal virulence in murine models of cryptococcosis. Thus, Znf2 bridges the sex-independent morphotype transition and fungal pathogenicity. The impacts of Znf2 on morphological switch and pathogenicity are at least partly mediated through its effects on cell adhesion property. Cfl1, a Znf2 downstream factor, regulates morphogenesis, cell adhesion, biofilm formation, and virulence. Cfl1 is the first adhesin discovered in the phylum Basidiomycota of the Kingdom Fungi. Together with previous findings in other eukaryotic pathogens, our findings support a convergent evolution of plasticity in morphology and its impact on cell adhesion as a critical adaptive trait for pathogenesis.

Concepts: Gene expression, Bacteria, Microbiology, Eukaryote, Fungus, Yeast, Cryptococcus neoformans, Basidiomycota