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PLoS One. 2014 Aug 26;9(8):e105773. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0105773. eCollection 2014.

Francisella novicida pathogenicity island encoded proteins were secreted during infection of macrophage-like cells.

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Department of Biology and Wildlife, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska, United States of America.
Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska, United States of America.


Intracellular pathogens and other organisms have evolved mechanisms to exploit host cells for their life cycles. Virulence genes of some intracellular bacteria responsible for these mechanisms are located in pathogenicity islands, such as secretion systems that secrete effector proteins. The Francisella pathogenicity island is required for phagosomal escape, intracellular replication, evasion of host immune responses, virulence, and encodes a type 6 secretion system. We hypothesize that some Francisella novicida pathogenicity island proteins are secreted during infection of host cells. To test this hypothesis, expression plasmids for all Francisella novicida FPI-encoded proteins with C-terminal and N-terminal epitope FLAG tags were developed. These plasmids expressed their respective epitope FLAG-tagged proteins at their predicted molecular weights. J774 murine macrophage-like cells were infected with Francisella novicida containing these plasmids. The FPI proteins expressed from these plasmids successfully restored the intramacrophage growth phenotype in mutants of the respective genes that were deficient for intramacrophage growth. Using these expression plasmids, the localization of the Francisella pathogenicity island proteins were examined via immuno-fluorescence microscopy within infected macrophage-like cells. Several Francisella pathogenicity island encoded proteins (IglABCDEFGHIJ, PdpACE, DotU and VgrG) were detected extracellularly and they were co-localized with the bacteria, while PdpBD and Anmk were not detected and thus remained inside bacteria. Proteins that were co-localized with bacteria had different patterns of localization. The localization of IglC was dependent on the type 6 secretion system. This suggests that some Francisella pathogenicity island proteins were secreted while others remain within the bacterium during infection of host cells as structural components of the secretion system and were necessary for secretion.

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