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Infect Immun. 2013 Jun;81(6):2076-84. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00275-13. Epub 2013 Mar 25.

Importance of PdpC, IglC, IglI, and IglG for modulation of a host cell death pathway induced by Francisella tularensis.

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Department of Clinical Microbiology, Clinical Bacteriology and Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden (MIMS), Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden.


Modulation of host cell death pathways appears to be a prerequisite for the successful lifestyles of many intracellular pathogens. The facultative intracellular bacterium Francisella tularensis is highly pathogenic, and effective proliferation in the macrophage cytosol leading to host cell death is a requirement for its virulence. To better understand the prerequisites of this cell death, macrophages were infected with the F. tularensis live vaccine strain (LVS), and the effects were compared to those resulting from infections with deletion mutants lacking expression of either of the pdpC, iglC, iglG, or iglI genes, which encode components of the Francisella pathogenicity island (FPI), a type VI secretion system. Within 12 h, a majority of the J774 cells infected with the LVS strain showed production of mitochondrial superoxide and, after 24 h, marked signs of mitochondrial damage, caspase-9 and caspase-3 activation, phosphatidylserine expression, nucleosome formation, and membrane leakage. In contrast, neither of these events occurred after infection with the ΔiglI or ΔiglC mutants, although the former strain replicated. The ΔiglG mutant replicated effectively but induced only marginal cytopathogenic effects after 24 h and intermediate effects after 48 h. In contrast, the ΔpdpC mutant showed no replication but induced marked mitochondrial superoxide production and mitochondrial damage, caspase-3 activation, nucleosome formation, and phosphatidylserine expression, although the effects were delayed compared to those obtained with LVS. The unique phenotypes of the mutants provide insights regarding the roles of individual FPI components for the modulation of the cytopathogenic effects resulting from the F. tularensis infection.

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