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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Jan 29;105(4):1261-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0709321105. Epub 2008 Jan 23.

The integrin Mac-1 (CR3) mediates internalization and directs Bacillus anthracis spores into professional phagocytes.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL 35294-2170, USA.


Anthrax, a disease caused by Bacillus anthracis, affects animals and humans. Because the inert spore is the infectious form of the organism that first contacts the potential host, the interaction between the host and spore exosporium is vital to the initiation of disease. Here, we demonstrate that the integrin Mac-1 is essential for the recognition of the major exosporium protein BclA by phagocytic cells. Expression of Mac-1, but not p150/95, in CHO cells markedly enhanced infection with Sterne strain of B. anthracis spores (WT spores). Conversely, CD11b(-/-) macrophages demonstrated a significant decrease in spore uptake when compared with macrophages from normal C57BL/6 mice. However, when CD11b(-/-) macrophages were infected with DeltabclA spores, spore ingestion was no different from their C57BL/6 counterparts. DeltabclA spores were also efficiently internalized by all CHO cell lines tested, independently of Mac-1 expression. Taken together, these results show that there is an alternative Mac-1-independent pathway involved in spore uptake that is unmasked only in the absence of BclA. Survival studies, using C57BL/6 and CD11b(-/-) mice, revealed that CD11b(-/-) mice are more resistant to infection with WT but not DeltabclA spores. Our experiments also show that DeltabclA spores are more virulent than WT spores in C57BL/6 and A/J mice. Overall, our data indicate that the Mac-1/BclA interaction may play a major role in B. anthracis pathogenesis by promoting spore uptake by professional phagocytes and subsequent access to a favorable niche for transport, germination, and outgrowth in lymphoid tissues.

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