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Mol Microbiol. 2000 Jun;36(6):1481-93.

Clinical and environmental isolates of Burkholderia cepacia exhibit differential cytotoxicity towards macrophages and mast cells.

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1
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago 60612, USA.

Abstract

Burkholderia cepacia is an emerging opportunistic pathogen that causes fatal infections in patients suffering from cystic fibrosis (CF) and chronic granulomatous disease. Various environmental isolates of B. cepacia are, however, capable of degrading environmental pollutants, such as trichloroethylene, 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T), etc., and are also highly effective in controlling plant diseases caused by nematodes and fungi. Such strains have therefore been proposed for environmental release to clean up toxic dump sites or as biopesticides. Various efforts to distinguish between clinical and environmental isolates of B. cepacia with regard to their virulence characteristics have produced ambiguous results, suggesting that newer methods are needed to test for the presence or absence of pathogenic potential in B. cepacia strains proposed for environmental release. We now report that several clinical strains of B. cepacia secrete cytotoxic factors that allow macrophage and mast cell death in the presence of external ATP. Several environmental strains had reduced activity in this regard. We also demonstrate that, while all the strains secrete enzymes that have nucleoside diphosphate kinase (Ndk), adenylate kinase (Ak) and 5'-nucleotidase activity, the level of secretion of the 5'-nucleotidase (and/or ATPase/phosphatase) appears to be lower in the environmental strains than in the clinical strains. The secretion of these enzymes is specifically activated in the presence of eukaryotic proteins such as alpha2-macroglobulin. As macrophage-or mast cell surface-associated P2Z receptors promote their cell death in the presence of mM concentrations of ATP, and as the secreted ATP-using enzymes generate various phosphorylated or non-phosphorylated adenine nucleotides that may even be better agonists than ATP in activating the P2Z receptors or may act through the activation of additional purinergic receptors, such enzymes may play an important role in allowing B. cepacia to evade host defence.

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