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Infect Immun. 2008 Dec;76(12):5488-99. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00682-08. Epub 2008 Oct 13.

The early phagosomal stage of Francisella tularensis determines optimal phagosomal escape and Francisella pathogenicity island protein expression.

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National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Laboratory of Intracellular Parasites, Rocky Mountain Laboratories, 903 South 4th Street, Hamilton, MT 59840, USA.


Francisella tularensis is an intracellular pathogen that can survive and replicate within macrophages. Following phagocytosis and transient interactions with the endocytic pathway, F. tularensis rapidly escapes from its original phagosome into the macrophage cytoplasm, where it eventually replicates. To examine the importance of the nascent phagosome for the Francisella intracellular cycle, we have characterized early trafficking events of the F. tularensis subsp. tularensis strain Schu S4 in a murine bone marrow-derived macrophage model. Here we show that early phagosomes containing Schu S4 transiently interact with early and late endosomes and become acidified before the onset of phagosomal disruption. Inhibition of endosomal acidification with the vacuolar ATPase inhibitor bafilomycin A1 or concanamycin A prior to infection significantly delayed but did not block phagosomal escape and cytosolic replication, indicating that maturation of the early Francisella-containing phagosome (FCP) is important for optimal phagosomal escape and subsequent intracellular growth. Further, Francisella pathogenicity island (FPI) protein expression was induced during early intracellular trafficking events. Although inhibition of endosomal acidification mimicked the early phagosomal escape defects caused by mutation of the FPI-encoded IglCD proteins, it did not inhibit the intracellular induction of FPI proteins, demonstrating that this response is independent of phagosomal pH. Altogether, these results demonstrate that early phagosomal maturation is required for optimal phagosomal escape and that the early FCP provides cues other than intravacuolar pH that determine intracellular induction of FPI proteins.

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