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J Bacteriol. 2013 Mar;195(6):1120-32. doi: 10.1128/JB.02007-12. Epub 2012 Dec 21.

Production of outer membrane vesicles and outer membrane tubes by Francisella novicida.

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Center for Infectious Diseases and Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Brook University, Stony Brook, New York, USA.


Francisella spp. are highly infectious and virulent bacteria that cause the zoonotic disease tularemia. Knowledge is lacking for the virulence factors expressed by Francisella and how these factors are secreted and delivered to host cells. Gram-negative bacteria constitutively release outer membrane vesicles (OMV), which may function in the delivery of virulence factors to host cells. We identified growth conditions under which Francisella novicida produces abundant OMV. Purification of the vesicles revealed the presence of tube-shaped vesicles in addition to typical spherical OMV, and examination of whole bacteria revealed the presence of tubes extending out from the bacterial surface. Recently, both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells have been shown to produce membrane-enclosed projections, termed nanotubes, which appear to function in cell-cell communication and the exchange of molecules. In contrast to these previously characterized structures, the F. novicida tubes are produced in liquid as well as on solid medium and are derived from the OM rather than the cytoplasmic membrane. The production of the OMV and tubes (OMV/T) by F. novicida was coordinately regulated and responsive to both growth medium and growth phase. Proteomic analysis of purified OMV/T identified known Francisella virulence factors among the constituent proteins, suggesting roles for the vesicles in pathogenesis. In support of this, production of OM tubes by F. novicida was stimulated during infection of macrophages and addition of purified OMV/T to macrophages elicited increased release of proinflammatory cytokines. Finally, vaccination with purified OMV/T protected mice from subsequent challenge with highly lethal doses of F. novicida.

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