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Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2014 Apr 1;306(7):L698-707. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00319.2013. Epub 2014 Jan 31.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa flagellar motility activates the phagocyte PI3K/Akt pathway to induce phagocytic engulfment.

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Dept. of Microbiology and Immunology, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Medical Center Dr., Lebanon, NH 03756.


Phagocytosis of the bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa is the primary means by which the host controls bacterially induced pneumonia during lung infection. Previous studies have identified flagellar swimming motility as a key pathogen-associated molecular pattern (PAMP) recognized by phagocytes to initiate engulfment. Correspondingly, loss of flagellar motility is observed during chronic pulmonary infection with P. aeruginosa, and this likely reflects a selection for bacteria resistant to phagocytic clearance. However, the mechanism underlying the preferential phagocytic response to motile bacteria is unknown. Here we have identified a cellular signaling pathway in alveolar macrophages and other phagocytes that is specifically activated by flagellar motility. Genetic and biochemical methods were employed to identify that phagocyte PI3K/Akt activation is required for bacterial uptake and, importantly, it is specifically activated in response to P. aeruginosa flagellar motility. Based on these observations, the second important finding that emerged from these studies is that titration of the bacterial flagellar motility results in a proportional activation state of Akt. Therefore, the Akt pathway is responsive to, and corresponds with, the degree of bacterial flagellar motility, is independent of the actin polymerization that facilitates phagocytosis, and determines the phagocytic fate of P. aeruginosa. These findings elucidate the mechanism behind motility-dependent phagocytosis of extracellular bacteria and support a model whereby phagocytic clearance exerts a selective pressure on P. aeruginosa populations in vivo, which contributes to changes in pathogenesis during infections.


Akt; Pseudomonas aeruginosa; flagellar motility; phagocytosis

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