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J Immunol. 2008 Jun 15;180(12):8262-71.

Francisella targets cholesterol-rich host cell membrane domains for entry into macrophages.

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  • 1Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY 10570, USA.


Francisella tularensis is a pathogen optimally adapted to efficiently invade its respective host cell and to proliferate intracellularly. We investigated the role of host cell membrane microdomains in the entry of F. tularensis subspecies holarctica vaccine strain (F. tularensis live vaccine strain) into murine macrophages. F. tularensis live vaccine strain recruits cholesterol-rich lipid domains ("lipid rafts") with caveolin-1 for successful entry into macrophages. Interference with lipid rafts through the depletion of plasma membrane cholesterol, through induction of raft internalization with choleratoxin, or through removal of raft-associated GPI-anchored proteins by treatment with phosphatidylinositol phospholipase C significantly inhibited entry of Francisella and its intracellular proliferation. Lipid raft-associated components such as cholesterol and caveolin-1 were incorporated into Francisella-containing vesicles during entry and the initial phase of intracellular trafficking inside the host cell. These findings demonstrate that Francisella requires cholesterol-rich membrane domains for entry into and proliferation inside macrophages.

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