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PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e41772. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0041772. Epub 2012 Jul 26.

ExoU activates NF-κB and increases IL-8/KC secretion during Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection.

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  • 1Departamento de Microbiologia, Imunologia e Parasitologia, Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


ExoU, a Pseudomonas aeruginosa cytotoxin injected into host cytosol by type III secretion system, exhibits a potent proinflammatory activity that leads to a marked recruitment of neutrophils to infected tissues. To evaluate the mechanisms that account for neutrophil infiltration, we investigated the effect of ExoU on IL-8 secretion and NF-κB activation. We demonstrate that ExoU increases IL-8 mRNA and protein levels in P. aeruginosa-infected epithelial and endothelial cell lines. Also, ExoU induces the nuclear translocation of p65/p50 NF-κB transactivator heterodimer as well as NF-κB-dependent transcriptional activity. ChIP assays clearly revealed that ExoU promotes p65 binding to NF-κB site in IL-8 promoter and the treatment of cultures with the NF-κB inhibitor Bay 11-7082 led to a significant reduction in IL-8 mRNA levels and protein secretion induced by ExoU. These results were corroborated in a murine model of pneumonia that revealed a significant reduction in KC secretion and neutrophil infiltration in bronchoalveolar lavage when mice were treated with Bay 11-7082 before infection with an ExoU-producing strain. In conclusion, our data demonstrate that ExoU activates NF-κB, stimulating IL-8 expression and secretion during P. aeruginosa infection, and unveils a new mechanism triggered by this important virulence factor to interfere in host signaling pathways.

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