Murine macrophages supported exponential intracellular growth of Francisella tularensis LVS in vitro with a doubling time of 4 to 6 h. LVS was internalized and remained in a vacuolar compartment throughout its growth cycle. The importance of endosome acidification to intracellular growth of this bacterium was assessed by treatment of LVS-infected macrophages with several different lysosomotropic agents (chloroquine, NH4Cl, and ouabain). Regardless of the agent used or its mechanism of action, macrophages treated with agents that blocked endosome acidification no longer supported replication of LVS. Over several experiments for each lysosomotropic agent, the number of CFU of LVS recovered from treated macrophage cultures was equivalent to the input inoculum (approximately 10(4) CFU) at 72 h. In contrast, over 10(8) CFU was consistently recovered from untreated cultures. Pretreatment of macrophages with these endosome acidification inhibitors did not alter their ingestion of bacteria. Further, the effects of the inhibitors were completely reversible: inhibitor-pretreated LVS-infected macrophages washed free of the agent and cultured in medium fully supported LVS growth over 72 h. Endosome acidification is an important cellular event essential for release of iron from transferrin. The growth-inhibitory effects of both chloroquine and NH4Cl were completely reversed by addition of ferric PPi, a transferrin-independent iron source, at a neutral pH but not by addition of excess holotransferrin. Thus, intracellular localization in an acidic vesicle which facilitates the availability of iron essential for Francisella growth is a survival tactic of this bacterium, and iron depletion is one mechanism that macrophages use to inhibit its growth
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