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Am J Med Sci. 2006 Oct;332(4):168-74.

Chlamydophila (Chlamydia) pneumoniae infection of human astrocytes and microglia in culture displays an active, rather than a persistent, phenotype.

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  • 1Department of Immunology and Microbiology, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan 48201, USA.



The intracellular pathogen Chlamydia pneumoniae can cause persistent infections during which its morphologic, molecular, and pathogenic characteristics differ importantly from those of active infection. This bacterium was identified within astrocytes and microglia in the brain of late-onset Alzheimer disease patients. We investigated whether infection of these two host cell types displays an active or persistent growth phenotype.


The human astrocytoma and microglioma cell lines U-87 MG and CHME-5 (respectively) and the human epithelial cell line HEp-2 were infected by the standard method with C pneumoniae strain AR-39. Cultures were harvested at 24, 48, and 72 hours postinfection and subjected to analysis of inclusion morphology. DNA and RNA were prepared from portions of each infected culture sample and analyzed for relative chromosome accumulation and presence or absence of several specific bacterial mRNAs.


Astrocytes and microglial cells infected in vitro with C pneumoniae displayed inclusions that were indistinguishable from those characteristic of active infection of the standard HEp-2 host cell line. Real time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) showed that the relative accumulation of chlamydial chromosome over time during infection of these two cell lines also was virtually identical to that in actively infected HEp-2 cells. Reverse transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR) analyses showed that mRNA from ftsK, pyk, and other chlamydial genes whose expression is abrogated during persistent infection were easily identifiable in infected CHME-5 and U-87 MG cells.


In cultured human astrocytes and microglia, C pneumoniae displays an active, not a persistent, growth phenotype. This indicates normal passage through the developmental cycle with its probable concomitant destruction by lysis of some portion of host cells at the termination of that cycle.

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