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Dev Genes Evol. 1998 Aug;208(6):295-303.

Induction of apoptosis by cooperative bacteria in the morphogenesis of host epithelial tissues.

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Pacific Biomedical Research Center, University of Hawai'i, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA.


Associations with pathogenic bacteria have recently been shown to initiate apoptotic programs in the cells of their animal hosts, where host cell death is hypothesized to be a response of the immune system, either initiated as a mechanism of host defense or bacterial offense. In this study, we present evidence that bacterial initiation of apoptosis is neither restricted to pathogenesis nor to the initation of an immune response. In the cooperative association between the sepiolid squid Euprymna scolopes and the luminous bacterium Vibrio fischeri, the bacteria induce a dramatic morphogenesis of the host tissues during the first few days of interaction between these partners. The most striking change is the bacteria-triggered loss of an extensive superficial epithelium that potentiates the infection process. Our analyses of these tissues revealed that the bacteria induce apoptosis in the cells that comprise this epithelium within hours of the interaction with bacteria. Ultrastructural analysis revealed that after 24 h the integrity of the epithelium had been lost, i.e., the basement membrane had degenerated and the majority of the cells exhibited signs of apoptosis, most notably chromatin condensation. Analysis of these tissues with probes that reveal intracellular acidification showed that the cells first undergo an initial acidification beginning about 6-8 h after exposure to V. fischeri. As determined by end-labeling of DNA fragments, extensive endonuclease activity was detected at approximately 16-20 h post-infection. These data provide evidence that cooperative bacteria can participate in the remodeling of host tissues through the induction of host apoptotic programs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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