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Cell Microbiol. 2006 Oct;8(10):1634-42.

Inactivation of Bacillus anthracis spores in murine primary macrophages.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA.


The current model for pathogenesis of inhalation anthrax indicates that the uptake and fate of Bacillus anthracis spores in alveolar macrophages are critical to the infection process. We have employed primary macrophages, which are more efficient for spore uptake than the macrophage-like cell line RAW264.7, to investigate spore uptake and survival. We found that at a multiplicity of infection (moi) of 5, greater than 80% of the spores of the Sterne strain containing only the pXO1 plasmid were internalized within 1 h. Within 4 h post infection, viability of internalized Sterne spores decreased to approximately 40%. Intracellular vegetative bacteria represented less than 1% of the total spore inoculum throughout the course of infection suggesting effective killing of germinated spores and/or vegetative bacteria. The Sterne spores trafficked quickly to phagolysosomes as indicated by colocalization with lysosome-associated membrane protein 1 (LAMP1). Expression of a dominant-negative Rab7 that blocked lysosome fusion enhanced Sterne spore survival. Addition of d-alanine to the infection resulted in 75% inhibition of spore germination and increased survival of internalized spores of the Sterne strain and a pathogenic strain containing both the pXO1 and pXO2 plasmids. Inhibition was reversed by the addition of l-alanine, which resumed spore germination and subsequent spore killing. Our data indicate that B. anthracis spores germinate in and are subsequently killed by primary macrophages.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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