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Vet Parasitol. 2010 Feb 10;167(2-4):155-66. doi: 10.1016/j.vetpar.2009.09.017. Epub 2009 Sep 19.

Molecular events involved in cellular invasion by Ehrlichia chaffeensis and Anaplasma phagocytophilum.

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Department of Veterinary Biosciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.


Ehrlichia chaffeensis and Anaplasma phagocytophilum are obligatory intracellular bacteria that preferentially replicate inside leukocytes by utilizing biological compounds and processes of these primary host defensive cells. These bacteria incorporate cholesterol from the host for their survival. Upon interaction with host monocytes and granulocytes, respectively, these bacteria usurp the lipid raft domain containing GPI-anchored protein to induce a series of signaling events that result in internalization of the bacteria. Monocytes and neutrophils usually kill invading microorganisms by fusion of the phagosomes containing the bacteria with granules containing both antimicrobial peptides and lysosomal hydrolytic enzymes and/or through sequestering vital nutrients. However, E. chaffeensis and A. phagocytophilum alter vesicular traffic to create a unique intracellular membrane-bound compartment that allows their replication in seclusion from lysosomal killing. These bacteria are quite sensitive to reactive oxygen species (ROS), so in order to survive in host cells that are primary mediators of ROS-induced killing, they inhibit activation of NADPH oxidase and assembly of this enzyme in their inclusion compartments. Moreover, host phagocyte activation and differentiation, apoptosis, and IFN-gamma signaling pathways are inhibited by these bacteria. Through reductive evolution, lipopolysaccharide and peptidoglycan that activate the innate immune response, have been eliminated from these gram-negative bacteria at the genomic level. Upon interaction with new host cells, bacterial genes encoding the Type IV secretion apparatus and the two-component regulatory system are up-regulated to sense and adapt to the host environment. Thus dynamic signal transduction events concurrently proceed both in the host cells and in the invading E. chaffeensis and A. phagocytophilum bacteria for successful establishment of intracellular infection. Several bacterial surface-exposed proteins and porins are recently identified. Further functional studies on Ehrlichia and Anaplasma effector or ligand molecules and cognate host cell receptors will undoubtedly advance our understanding of the complex interplay between obligatory intracellular pathogens and their hosts. Such data can be applied towards treatment, diagnosis, and control of ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis.

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