74 research outputs found

    Eschar and neck lymphadenopathy caused by Francisella tularensis after a tick bite: a case report

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    <p>Abstract</p> <p>Introduction</p> <p>In 25 to 35% of cases, the aetiological agent of scalp eschar and neck lymphadenopathy after a tick bite remains undetermined. To date, <it>Rickettsia slovaca</it>, <it>Rickettsia raoultii </it>and more recently <it>Bartonella henselae </it>have been associated with this syndrome.</p> <p>Case presentation</p> <p>A four-year-old Caucasian boy was admitted to hospital with fever, vomiting and abdominal pain. On physical examination, an inflammatory and suppurating eschar was seen on the scalp, with multiple enlarged cervical lymph nodes on both sides. Although no tick was found in this scalp lesion, a diagnosis of tick-borne lymphadenopathy was suggested, and explored by serology testing and polymerase chain reaction of a biopsy from the eschar. <it>Francisella tularensis </it>DNA was found in the skin biopsy and the serology showed titres consistent with tularaemia.</p> <p>Conclusion</p> <p>This is, to the best of our knowledge, the first reported case of scalp eschar and neck lymphadenopathy after tick bite infection caused by <it>F. tularensis.</it></p

    Clusters versus Affinity-Based Approaches in F. tularensis Whole Genome Search of CTL Epitopes

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    Deciphering the cellular immunome of a bacterial pathogen is challenging due to the enormous number of putative peptidic determinants. State-of-the-art prediction methods developed in recent years enable to significantly reduce the number of peptides to be screened, yet the number of remaining candidates for experimental evaluation is still in the range of ten-thousands, even for a limited coverage of MHC alleles. We have recently established a resource-efficient approach for down selection of candidates and enrichment of true positives, based on selection of predicted MHC binders located in high density “hotspots" of putative epitopes. This cluster-based approach was applied to an unbiased, whole genome search of Francisella tularensis CTL epitopes and was shown to yield a 17–25 fold higher level of responders as compared to randomly selected predicted epitopes tested in Kb/Db C57BL/6 mice. In the present study, we further evaluate the cluster-based approach (down to a lower density range) and compare this approach to the classical affinity-based approach by testing putative CTL epitopes with predicted IC50 values of <10 nM. We demonstrate that while the percent of responders achieved by both approaches is similar, the profile of responders is different, and the predicted binding affinity of most responders in the cluster-based approach is relatively low (geometric mean of 170 nM), rendering the two approaches complimentary. The cluster-based approach is further validated in BALB/c F. tularensis immunized mice belonging to another allelic restriction (Kd/Dd) group. To date, the cluster-based approach yielded over 200 novel F. tularensis peptides eliciting a cellular response, all were verified as MHC class I binders, thereby substantially increasing the F. tularensis dataset of known CTL epitopes. The generality and power of the high density cluster-based approach suggest that it can be a valuable tool for identification of novel CTLs in proteomes of other bacterial pathogens

    Immunoproteomics Analysis of the Murine Antibody Response to Vaccination with an Improved Francisella tularensis Live Vaccine Strain (LVS)

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    Background: Francisella tularensis subspecies tularensis is the causative agent of a spectrum of diseases collectively known as tularemia. An attenuated live vaccine strain (LVS) has been shown to be efficacious in humans, but safety concerns have prevented its licensure by the FDA. Recently, F. tularensis LVS has been produced under Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP guidelines). Little is known about the immunogenicity of this new vaccine preparation in comparison with extensive studies conducted with laboratory passaged strains of LVS. Thus, the aim of the current work was to evaluate the repertoire of antibodies produced in mouse strains vaccinated with the new LVS vaccine preparation. Methodology/Principal Findings: In the current study, we used an immunoproteomics approach to examine the repertoire of antibodies induced following successful immunization of BALB/c versus unsuccessful vaccination of C57BL/6 mice with the new preparation of F. tularensis LVS. Successful vaccination of BALB/c mice elicited antibodies to nine identified proteins that were not recognized by antisera from vaccinated but unprotected C57BL/6 mice. In addition, the CGMP formulation of LVS stimulated a greater repertoire of antibodies following vaccination compared to vaccination with laboratory passaged ATCC LVS strain. A total of 15 immunoreactive proteins were identified in both studies, however, 16 immunoreactive proteins were uniquely reactive with sera from the new formulation of LVS. Conclusions/Significance: This is the first report characterising the antibody based immune response of the new formulation of LVS in the widely used murine model of tularemia. Using two mouse strains, we show that successfully vaccinated mice can be distinguished from unsuccessfully vaccinated mice based upon the repertoire of antibodies generated. This opens the door towards downselection of antigens for incorporation into tularemia subunit vaccines. In addition, this work also highlights differences in the humoral immune response to vaccination with the commonly used laboratory LVS strain and the new vaccine formulation of LVS.Peer reviewed: YesNRC publication: Ye

    Connecting Peptide Physicochemical and Antimicrobial Properties by a Rational Prediction Model

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    The increasing rate in antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains has become an imperative health issue. Thus, pharmaceutical industries have focussed their efforts to find new potent, non-toxic compounds to treat bacterial infections. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are promising candidates in the fight against antibiotic-resistant pathogens due to their low toxicity, broad range of activity and unspecific mechanism of action. In this context, bioinformatics' strategies can inspire the design of new peptide leads with enhanced activity. Here, we describe an artificial neural network approach, based on the AMP's physicochemical characteristics, that is able not only to identify active peptides but also to assess its antimicrobial potency. The physicochemical properties considered are directly derived from the peptide sequence and comprise a complete set of parameters that accurately describe AMPs. Most interesting, the results obtained dovetail with a model for the AMP's mechanism of action that takes into account new concepts such as peptide aggregation. Moreover, this classification system displays high accuracy and is well correlated with the experimentally reported data. All together, these results suggest that the physicochemical properties of AMPs determine its action. In addition, we conclude that sequence derived parameters are enough to characterize antimicrobial peptides

    Host-Pathogen O-Methyltransferase Similarity and Its Specific Presence in Highly Virulent Strains of Francisella tularensis Suggests Molecular Mimicry

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    Whole genome comparative studies of many bacterial pathogens have shown an overall high similarity of gene content (>95%) between phylogenetically distinct subspecies. In highly clonal species that share the bulk of their genomes subtle changes in gene content and small-scale polymorphisms, especially those that may alter gene expression and protein-protein interactions, are more likely to have a significant effect on the pathogen's biology. In order to better understand molecular attributes that may mediate the adaptation of virulence in infectious bacteria, a comparative study was done to further analyze the evolution of a gene encoding an o-methyltransferase that was previously identified as a candidate virulence factor due to its conservation specifically in highly pathogenic Francisella tularensis subsp. tularensis strains. The o-methyltransferase gene is located in the genomic neighborhood of a known pathogenicity island and predicted site of rearrangement. Distinct o-methyltransferase subtypes are present in different Francisella tularensis subspecies. Related protein families were identified in several host species as well as species of pathogenic bacteria that are otherwise very distant phylogenetically from Francisella, including species of Mycobacterium. A conserved sequence motif profile is present in the mammalian host and pathogen protein sequences, and sites of non-synonymous variation conserved in Francisella subspecies specific o-methyltransferases map proximally to the predicted active site of the orthologous human protein structure. Altogether, evidence suggests a role of the F. t. subsp. tularensis protein in a mechanism of molecular mimicry, similar perhaps to Legionella and Coxiella. These findings therefore provide insights into the evolution of niche-restriction and virulence in Francisella, and have broader implications regarding the molecular mechanisms that mediate host-pathogen relationships

    Host Factors Required for Modulation of Phagosome Biogenesis and Proliferation of Francisella tularensis within the Cytosol

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    Francisella tularensis is a highly infectious facultative intracellular bacterium that can be transmitted between mammals by arthropod vectors. Similar to many other intracellular bacteria that replicate within the cytosol, such as Listeria, Shigella, Burkholderia, and Rickettsia, the virulence of F. tularensis depends on its ability to modulate biogenesis of its phagosome and to escape into the host cell cytosol where it proliferates. Recent studies have identified the F. tularensis genes required for modulation of phagosome biogenesis and escape into the host cell cytosol within human and arthropod-derived cells. However, the arthropod and mammalian host factors required for intracellular proliferation of F. tularensis are not known. We have utilized a forward genetic approach employing genome-wide RNAi screen in Drosophila melanogaster-derived cells. Screening a library of ∼21,300 RNAi, we have identified at least 186 host factors required for intracellular bacterial proliferation. We silenced twelve mammalian homologues by RNAi in HEK293T cells and identified three conserved factors, the PI4 kinase PI4KCA, the ubiquitin hydrolase USP22, and the ubiquitin ligase CDC27, which are also required for replication in human cells. The PI4KCA and USP22 mammalian factors are not required for modulation of phagosome biogenesis or phagosomal escape but are required for proliferation within the cytosol. In contrast, the CDC27 ubiquitin ligase is required for evading lysosomal fusion and for phagosomal escape into the cytosol. Although F. tularensis interacts with the autophagy pathway during late stages of proliferation in mouse macrophages, this does not occur in human cells. Our data suggest that F. tularensis utilizes host ubiquitin turnover in distinct mechanisms during the phagosomal and cytosolic phases and phosphoinositide metabolism is essential for cytosolic proliferation of F. tularensis. Our data will facilitate deciphering molecular ecology, patho-adaptation of F. tularensis to the arthropod vector and its role in bacterial ecology and patho-evolution to infect mammals

    Genome-Wide RNAi Screen in IFN-γ-Treated Human Macrophages Identifies Genes Mediating Resistance to the Intracellular Pathogen Francisella tularensis

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    Interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) inhibits intracellular replication of Francisella tularensis in human monocyte-derived macrophages (HMDM) and in mice, but the mechanisms of this protective effect are poorly characterized. We used genome-wide RNA interference (RNAi) screening in the human macrophage cell line THP-1 to identify genes that mediate the beneficial effects of IFN-γ on F. tularensis infection. A primary screen identified ∼200 replicated candidate genes. These were prioritized according to mRNA expression in IFN-γ-primed and F. tularensis-challenged macrophages. A panel of 20 top hits was further assessed by re-testing using individual shRNAs or siRNAs in THP-1 cells, HMDMs and primary human lung macrophages. Six of eight validated genes tested were also found to confer resistance to Listeria monocytogenes infection, suggesting a broadly shared host gene program for intracellular pathogens. The F. tularensis-validated hits included ‘druggable’ targets such as TNFRSF9, which encodes CD137. Treating HMDM with a blocking antibody to CD137 confirmed a beneficial role of CD137 in macrophage clearance of F. tularensis. These studies reveal a number of important mediators of IFN-γ activated host defense against intracellular pathogens, and implicate CD137 as a potential therapeutic target and regulator of macrophage interactions with Francisella tularensis

    Requirement of the CXXC Motif of Novel Francisella Infectivity Potentiator Protein B FipB, and FipA in Virulence of F. tularensis subsp. tularensis

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    The lipoprotein encoded by the Francisella tularensis subsp. tularensis locus FTT1103 is essential for virulence; an FTT1103 deletion mutant is defective in uptake and intracellular survival, and mice survive high dose challenges of greater than 108 bacteria. This protein has two conserved domains; one is found in a class of virulence proteins called macrophage infectivity potentiator (Mip) proteins, and the other in oxidoreductase Disulfide Bond formation protein A (DsbA)-related proteins. We have designated the protein encoded by FTT1103 as FipB for Francisella infectivity potentiator protein B. The locus FTT1102 (fipA), which is upstream of fipB, also has similarity to same conserved Mip domain. Deletion and site-specific mutants of fipA and fipB were constructed in the Schu S4 strain, and characterized with respect to intracellular replication and in vivo virulence. A nonpolar fipA mutant demonstrated reduced survival in host cells, but was only slightly attenuated in vivo. Although FipB protein was present in a fipA mutant, the abundance of the three isoforms of FipB was altered, suggesting that FipA has a role in post-translational modification of FipB. Similar to many DsbA homologues, FipB contains a cysteine-any amino acid-any amino acid-cysteine (CXXC) motif. This motif was found to be important for FipB's role in virulence; a deletion mutant complemented with a gene encoding a FipB protein in which the first cysteine was changed to an alanine residue (AXXC) failed to restore intracellular survival or in vivo virulence. Complementation with a gene that encoded a CXXA containing FipB protein was significantly defective in intracellular growth; however, only slightly attenuated in vivo

    Genome Sequencing Shows that European Isolates of Francisella tularensis Subspecies tularensis Are Almost Identical to US Laboratory Strain Schu S4

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    BACKGROUND: Francisella tularensis causes tularaemia, a life-threatening zoonosis, and has potential as a biowarfare agent. F. tularensis subsp. tularensis, which causes the most severe form of tularaemia, is usually confined to North America. However, a handful of isolates from this subspecies was obtained in the 1980s from ticks and mites from Slovakia and Austria. Our aim was to uncover the origins of these enigmatic European isolates. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We determined the complete genome sequence of FSC198, a European isolate of F. tularensis subsp. tularensis, by whole-genome shotgun sequencing and compared it to that of the North American laboratory strain Schu S4. Apparent differences between the two genomes were resolved by re-sequencing discrepant loci in both strains. We found that the genome of FSC198 is almost identical to that of Schu S4, with only eight SNPs and three VNTR differences between the two sequences. Sequencing of these loci in two other European isolates of F. tularensis subsp. tularensis confirmed that all three European isolates are also closely related to, but distinct from Schu S4. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: The data presented here suggest that the Schu S4 laboratory strain is the most likely source of the European isolates of F. tularensis subsp. tularensis and indicate that anthropogenic activities, such as movement of strains or animal vectors, account for the presence of these isolates in Europe. Given the highly pathogenic nature of this subspecies, the possibility that it has become established wild in the heartland of Europe carries significant public health implications

    Correlation between in vitro cytotoxicity and in vivo lethal activity in mice of epsilon toxin mutants from Clostridium perfringens

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    Epsilon toxin (Etx) from Clostridium perfringens is a pore-forming protein with a lethal effect on livestock, producing severe enterotoxemia characterized by general edema and neurological alterations. Site-specific mutations of the toxin are valuable tools to study the cellular and molecular mechanism of the toxin activity. In particular, mutants with paired cysteine substitutions that affect the membrane insertion domain behaved as dominant-negative inhibitors of toxin activity in MDCK cells. We produced similar mutants, together with a well-known non-toxic mutant (Etx-H106P), as green fluorescent protein (GFP) fusion proteins to perform in vivo studies in an acutely intoxicated mouse model. The mutant (GFP-Etx-I51C/A114C) had a lethal effect with generalized edema, and accumulated in the brain parenchyma due to its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB). In the renal system, this mutant had a cytotoxic effect on distal tubule epithelial cells. The other mutants studied (GFP-Etx-V56C/F118C and GFP-Etx-H106P) did not have a lethal effect or cross the BBB, and failed to induce a cytotoxic effect on renal epithelial cells. These data suggest a direct correlation between the lethal effect of the toxin, with its cytotoxic effect on the kidney distal tubule cells, and the ability to cross the BBB
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