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Nat Microbiol. 2018 Oct;3(10):1122-1130. doi: 10.1038/s41564-018-0246-z. Epub 2018 Sep 17.

Salmonella stimulates pro-inflammatory signalling through p21-activated kinases bypassing innate immune receptors.

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Department of Microbial Pathogenesis, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA.
Department of Microbial Pathogenesis, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA.


Microbial infections are most often countered by inflammatory responses that are initiated through the recognition of conserved microbial products by innate immune receptors and result in pathogen expulsion1-6. However, inflammation can also lead to pathology. Tissues such as the intestinal epithelium, which are exposed to microbial products, are therefore subject to stringent negative regulatory mechanisms to prevent signalling through innate immune receptors6-11. This presents a challenge to the enteric pathogen Salmonella Typhimurium, which requires intestinal inflammation to compete against the resident microbiota and to acquire the nutrients and electron acceptors that sustain its replication12,13. We show here that S. Typhimurium stimulates pro-inflammatory signalling by a unique mechanism initiated by effector proteins that are delivered by its type III protein secretion system. These effectors activate Cdc42 and the p21-activated kinase 1 (PAK1) leading to the recruitment of TNF receptor-associated factor 6 (TRAF6) and mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase kinase 7 (TAK1), and the stimulation of nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF-κB) inflammatory signalling. The removal of Cdc42, PAK1, TRAF6 or TAK1 prevented S. Typhimurium from stimulating NF-κB signalling in cultured cells. In addition, oral administration of a highly specific PAK inhibitor blocked Salmonella-induced intestinal inflammation and bacterial replication in the mouse intestine, although it resulted in a significant increase in the bacterial loads in systemic tissues. Thus, S. Typhimurium stimulates inflammatory signalling in the intestinal tract by engaging critical downstream signalling components of innate immune receptors. These findings illustrate the unique balance that emerges from host-pathogen co-evolution, in that pathogen-initiated responses that help pathogen replication are also important to prevent pathogen spread to deeper tissues.

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