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PLoS Pathog. 2011 Oct;7(10):e1002285. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1002285. Epub 2011 Oct 6.

Chlamydia trachomatis co-opts the FGF2 signaling pathway to enhance infection.

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Department of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California, United States of America.


The molecular details of Chlamydia trachomatis binding, entry, and spread are incompletely understood, but heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs) play a role in the initial binding steps. As cell surface HSPGs facilitate the interactions of many growth factors with their receptors, we investigated the role of HSPG-dependent growth factors in C. trachomatis infection. Here, we report a novel finding that Fibroblast Growth Factor 2 (FGF2) is necessary and sufficient to enhance C. trachomatis binding to host cells in an HSPG-dependent manner. FGF2 binds directly to elementary bodies (EBs) where it may function as a bridging molecule to facilitate interactions of EBs with the FGF receptor (FGFR) on the cell surface. Upon EB binding, FGFR is activated locally and contributes to bacterial uptake into non-phagocytic cells. We further show that C. trachomatis infection stimulates fgf2 transcription and enhances production and release of FGF2 through a pathway that requires bacterial protein synthesis and activation of the Erk1/2 signaling pathway but that is independent of FGFR activation. Intracellular replication of the bacteria results in host proteosome-mediated degradation of the high molecular weight (HMW) isoforms of FGF2 and increased amounts of the low molecular weight (LMW) isoforms, which are released upon host cell death. Finally, we demonstrate the in vivo relevance of these findings by showing that conditioned medium from C. trachomatis infected cells is enriched for LMW FGF2, accounting for its ability to enhance C. trachomatis infectivity in additional rounds of infection. Together, these results demonstrate that C. trachomatis utilizes multiple mechanisms to co-opt the host cell FGF2 pathway to enhance bacterial infection and spread.

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