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J Cell Sci. 2013 Jul 15;126(Pt 14):2990-6. doi: 10.1242/jcs.115253. Epub 2013 May 17.

Preferential invasion of mitotic cells by Salmonella reveals that cell surface cholesterol is maximal during metaphase.

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  • 1Section of Microbiology, MRC Centre for Molecular Bacteriology and Infection, Imperial College London, London SW7 2AZ, UK.


Cell surface-exposed cholesterol is crucial for cell attachment and invasion of many viruses and bacteria, including the bacterium Salmonella, which causes typhoid fever and gastroenteritis. Using flow cytometry and 3D confocal fluorescence microscopy, we found that mitotic cells, although representing only 1-4% of an exponentially growing population, were much more efficiently targeted for invasion by Salmonella. This targeting was not dependent on the spherical shape of mitotic cells, but was instead SipB and cholesterol dependent. Thus, we measured the levels of plasma membrane and cell surface cholesterol throughout the cell cycle using, respectively, brief staining with filipin and a fluorescent ester of polyethylene glycol-cholesterol that cannot flip through the plasma membrane, and found that both were maximal during mitosis. This increase was due not only to the rise in global cell cholesterol levels along the cell cycle but also to a transient loss in cholesterol asymmetry at the plasma membrane during mitosis. We measured that cholesterol, but not phosphatidylserine, changed from a ∼2080 outerinner leaflet repartition during interphase to ∼5050 during metaphase, suggesting this was specific to cholesterol and not due to a broad change of lipid asymmetry during metaphase. This explains the increase in outer surface levels that make dividing cells more susceptible to Salmonella invasion and perhaps to other viruses and bacteria entering cells in a cholesterol-dependent manner. The change in cholesterol partitioning also favoured the recruitment of activated ERM (Ezrin, Radixin, Moesin) proteins at the plasma membrane and thus supported mitotic cell rounding.


Bacterial pathogenesis; Cholesterol; Mitosis; Plasma membrane; Salmonella

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