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Blood. 2005 Aug 15;106(4):1215-22. Epub 2005 Apr 28.

Infection of human CD34+ progenitor cells with Bartonella henselae results in intraerythrocytic presence of B. henselae.

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Institut für Medizinische Mikrobiologie und Hygiene, Elfriede-Aulhorn-Str 6, D-72076, Tübingen, Germany.


Although there is evidence that endothelial cells are important targets for human pathogenic Bartonella species, the primary niche of infection is unknown. Here we elucidated whether human CD34+ hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPCs) internalize B. henselae and may serve as a potential niche of the pathogen. We showed that B. henselae does not adhere to or invade human erythrocytes. In contrast, B. henselae invades and persists in HPCs as shown by gentamicin protection assays, confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM), and electron microscopy (EM). Fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) analysis of glycophorin A expression revealed that erythroid differentiation of HPCs was unaffected following infection with B. henselae. The number of intracellular B. henselae continuously increased over a 13-day period. When HPCs were infected with B. henselae immediately after isolation, intracellular bacteria were subsequently detectable in differentiated erythroid cells on day 9 and day 13 after infection, as shown by CLSM, EM, and FACS analysis. Our data provide, for the first time, evidence that a bacterial pathogen is able to infect and persist in differentiating HPCs, and suggest that HPCs might serve as a potential primary niche in Bartonella infections.

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