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Microbes Infect. 2009 Jul-Aug;11(8-9):762-9. doi: 10.1016/j.micinf.2009.04.016. Epub 2009 May 4.

The role of complement opsonization in interactions between F. tularensis subsp. novicida and human neutrophils.

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  • 1Inflammation Program and Department of Medicine, Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the University of Iowa, Coralville, IA 52241, USA.


The remarkable infectiousness of Francisella tularensis suggests that the bacterium efficiently evades innate immune responses that typically protect the host during its continuous exposure to environmental and commensal microbes. In our studies of the innate immune response to F. tularensis, we have observed that, unlike the live vaccine strain (LVS) of F. tularensis subsp. holarctica, F. tularensis subsp. novicida U112 opsonized in pooled human serum activated the NADPH oxidase when incubated with human neutrophils. Given previous observations that F. tularensis fixes relatively small quantities of complement component C3 during incubation in human serum and the importance of C3 to neutrophil phagocytosis, we hypothesized that F. tularensis subsp. novicida may fix C3 in human serum more readily than would LVS. We now report that F. tularensis subsp. novicida fixed approximately six-fold more C3 than did LVS when incubated in 50% pooled human serum and that this complement opsonization was antibody-mediated. Furthermore, antibody-mediated C3 deposition enhanced bacterial uptake and was indispensable for the neutrophil oxidative response to F. tularensis subsp. novicida. Taken together, our results reveal important differences between these two strains of F. tularensis and may, in part, explain the low virulence of F. tularensis subsp. novicida for humans.

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