Identification of Francisella tularensis live vaccine strain CuZn superoxide dismutase as critical for resistance to extracellularly generated reactive oxygen species.
ABSTRACT: Francisella tularensis is an intracellular pathogen whose survival is in part dependent on its ability to resist the microbicidal activity of host-generated reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species (RNS). In numerous bacterial pathogens, CuZn-containing superoxide dismutases (SodC) are important virulence factors, localizing to the periplasm to offer protection from host-derived superoxide radicals (O(2)(-)). In the present study, mutants of F. tularensis live vaccine strain (LVS) deficient in superoxide dismutases (SODs) were used to examine their role in defense against ROS/RNS-mediated microbicidal activity of infected macrophages. An in-frame deletion F. tularensis mutant of sodC (DeltasodC) and a F. tularensis DeltasodC mutant with attenuated Fe-superoxide dismutase (sodB) gene expression (sodB DeltasodC) were constructed and evaluated for susceptibility to ROS and RNS in gamma interferon (IFN-gamma)-activated macrophages and a mouse model of respiratory tularemia. The F. tularensis DeltasodC and sodB DeltasodC mutants showed attenuated intramacrophage survival in IFN-gamma-activated macrophages compared to the wild-type F. tularensis LVS. Transcomplementing the sodC gene in the DeltasodC mutant or inhibiting the IFN-gamma-dependent production of O(2)(-) or nitric oxide (NO) enhanced intramacrophage survival of the sod mutants. The DeltasodC and sodB DeltasodC mutants were also significantly attenuated for virulence in intranasally challenged C57BL/6 mice compared to the wild-type F. tularensis LVS. As observed for macrophages, the virulence of the DeltasodC mutant was restored in ifn-gamma(-/-), inos(-/-), and phox(-/-) mice, indicating that SodC is required for resisting host-generated ROS. To conclude, this study demonstrates that SodB and SodC act to confer protection against host-derived oxidants and contribute to intramacrophage survival and virulence of F. tularensis in mice.
Project description:Francisella tularensis is a category A biodefence agent that causes a fatal human disease known as tularaemia. The pathogenicity of F. tularensis depends on its ability to persist inside host immune cells primarily by resisting an attack from host-generated reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (ROS/RNS). Based on the ability of F. tularensis to resist high ROS/RNS levels, we have hypothesized that additional unknown factors act in conjunction with known antioxidant defences to render ROS resistance. By screening a transposon insertion library of F. tularensis?LVS in the presence of hydrogen peroxide, we have identified an oxidant-sensitive mutant in putative EmrA1 (FTL_0687) secretion protein. The results demonstrate that the emrA1 mutant is highly sensitive to oxidants and several antimicrobial agents, and exhibits diminished intramacrophage growth that can be restored to wild-type F. tularensis?LVS levels by either transcomplementation, inhibition of ROS generation or infection in NADPH oxidase deficient (gp91Phox(-/-)) macrophages. The emrA1 mutant is attenuated for virulence, which is restored by infection in gp91Phox(-/-) mice. Further, EmrA1 contributes to oxidative stress resistance by affecting secretion of Francisella antioxidant enzymes SodB and KatG. This study exposes unique links between transporter activity and the antioxidant defence mechanisms of F.?tularensis.
Project description:Francisella tularensis is a Gram-negative, facultative intracellular pathogen and the causative agent of a lethal human disease known as tularemia. Due to its extremely high virulence and potential to be used as a bioterror agent, F. tularensis is classified by the CDC as a Category A Select Agent. As an intracellular pathogen, F. tularensis during its intracellular residence encounters a number of oxidative and nitrosative stresses. The roles of the primary antioxidant enzymes SodB, SodC and KatG in oxidative stress resistance and virulence of F. tularensis live vaccine strain (LVS) have been characterized in previous studies. However, very fragmentary information is available regarding the role of peroxiredoxin of the AhpC/TSA family (annotated as AhpC) of F. tularensis SchuS4; whereas the role of AhpC of F. tularensis LVS in tularemia pathogenesis is not known. This study was undertaken to exhaustively investigate the role of AhpC in oxidative stress resistance of F. tularensis LVS and SchuS4. We report that AhpC of F. tularensis LVS confers resistance against a wide range of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species, and serves as a virulence factor. In highly virulent F. tularensis SchuS4 strain, AhpC serves as a key antioxidant enzyme and contributes to its robust oxidative and nitrosative stress resistance, and intramacrophage survival. We also demonstrate that there is functional redundancy among primary antioxidant enzymes AhpC, SodC, and KatG of F. tularensis SchuS4. Collectively, this study highlights the differences in antioxidant defense mechanisms of F. tularensis LVS and SchuS4.
Project description:Francisella tularensis, a bacterial biothreat agent, has no approved vaccine in the United States. Previously, we showed that incorporating lysates from partially attenuated F. tularensis LVS or fully virulent F. tularensis Schu S4 strains into catanionic surfactant vesicle (V) nanoparticles (LVS-V and Schu S4-V, respectively) protected fully against F. tularensis LVS intraperitoneal (i.p.) challenge in mice. However, we achieved only partial protection against F. tularensis Schu S4 intranasal (i.n.) challenge, even when employing heterologous prime-boost immunization strategies. We now extend these findings to show that both LVS-V and Schu S4-V immunization (i.p./i.p.) elicited similarly high titers of anti-F. tularensis IgG and that the titers could be further increased by adding monophosphoryl lipid A (MPL), a nontoxic Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) adjuvant that is included in several U.S. FDA-approved vaccines. LVS-V+MPL immune sera also detected more F. tularensis antigens than LVS-V immune sera and, after passive transfer to naive mice, significantly delayed the time to death against F. tularensis Schu S4 subcutaneous (s.c.) but not i.n. challenge. Active immunization with LVS-V+MPL (i.p./i.p.) also increased the frequency of gamma interferon (IFN-?)-secreting activated helper T cells, IFN-? production, and the ability of splenocytes to control intramacrophage F. tularensis LVS replication ex vivo Active LVS-V+MPL immunization via heterologous routes (i.p./i.n.) significantly elevated IgA and IgG levels in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid and significantly enhanced protection against i.n. F. tularensis Schu S4 challenge (to ?60%). These data represent a significant step in the development of a subunit vaccine against the highly virulent type A strains.
Project description:There are no defined correlates of protection for any intracellular pathogen, including the bacterium Francisella tularensis, which causes tularemia. Evaluating vaccine efficacy against sporadic diseases like tularemia using field trials is problematic, and therefore alternative strategies to test vaccine candidates like the Francisella Live Vaccine Strain (LVS), such as testing in animals and applying correlate measurements, are needed. Recently, we described a promising correlate strategy that predicted the degree of vaccine-induced protection in mice given parenteral challenges, primarily when using an attenuated Francisella strain. Here, we demonstrate that using peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs) in this approach predicts LVS-mediated protection against respiratory challenge of Fischer 344 rats with fully virulent F. tularensis, with exceptional sensitivity and specificity. Rats were vaccinated with a panel of LVS-derived vaccines and subsequently given lethal respiratory challenges with Type A F. tularensis. In parallel, PBLs from vaccinated rats were evaluated for their functional ability to control intramacrophage Francisella growth in in vitro co-culture assays. PBLs recovered from co-cultures were also evaluated for relative gene expression using a large panel of genes identified in murine studies. In vitro control of LVS intramacrophage replication reflected the hierarchy of protection. Further, despite variability between individuals, 22 genes were significantly more up-regulated in PBLs from rats vaccinated with LVS compared to those from rats vaccinated with the variant LVS-R or heat-killed LVS, which were poorly protective. These genes included IFN-?, IL-21, NOS2, LTA, T-bet, IL-12r?2, and CCL5. Most importantly, combining quantifications of intramacrophage growth control with 5-7 gene expression levels using multivariate analyses discriminated protected from non-protected individuals with greater than 95% sensitivity and specificity. The results therefore support translation of this approach to non-human primates and people to evaluate new vaccines against Francisella and other intracellular pathogens.
Project description:Upregulation of the transcription factor T-bet is correlated with the strength of protection against secondary challenge with the live vaccine strain (LVS) of Francisella tularensis. Thus, to determine if this mediator had direct consequences in immunity to LVS, we examined its role in infection. Despite substantial in vivo gamma interferon (IFN-?) levels, T-bet-knockout (KO) mice infected intradermally (i.d.) or intranasally (i.n.) with LVS succumbed to infection with doses 2 log units less than those required for their wild-type (WT) counterparts, and exhibited significantly increased bacterial burdens in the lung and spleen. Lungs of LVS-infected T-bet-KO mice contained fewer lymphocytes and more neutrophils and interleukin-17 than WT mice. LVS-vaccinated T-bet-KO mice survived lethal LVS intraperitoneal secondary challenge but not high doses of LVS i.n. challenge, independently of the route of vaccination. Immune T lymphocytes from the spleens of i.d. LVS-vaccinated WT or KO mice controlled intracellular bacterial replication in an in vitro coculture system, but cultures with T-bet-KO splenocyte supernatants contained less IFN-? and increased amounts of tumor necrosis factor alpha. In contrast, immune T-bet-KO lung lymphocytes were greatly impaired in controlling intramacrophage growth of LVS; this functional defect is the likely mechanism underpinning the lack of respiratory protection. Taken together, T-bet is important in host resistance to primary LVS infection and i.n. secondary challenge. Thus, T-bet represents a true, useful correlate for immunity to LVS.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Superoxide dismutases (SODs) cause dismutation of superoxide radicals to hydrogen peroxide and oxygen. Besides protecting the cells against oxidative damage by endogenously generated oxygen radicals, SODs play an important role in intraphagocytic survival of pathogenic bacteria. The complete genome sequences of Yersinia enterocolitica strains show presence of three different sod genes. However, not much is known about the types of SODs present in Y. enterocolitica, their characteristics and role in virulence and intraphagocytic survival of this organism. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: This study reports detection and distribution of the three superoxide dismutase (sodA, sodB and sodC) genes in 59 strains of Y. enterocolitica and related species. The majority (94%) of the strains carried all three genes and constitutive expression of sodA and sodB was detected in 88% of the strains. Expression of sodC was not observed in any of the strains. The sodA, sodB and sodC genes of Y. enterocolitica were cloned in pET28a (+) vector. Recombinant SodA (82 kDa) and SodB (21 kDa) were expressed as homotetramer and monomer respectively, and showed activity over a broad range of pH (3.0-8.0) and temperature (4-70°C). SodA and SodB showed optimal activity at 4°C under acidic pH of 6.0 and 4.0 respectively. The secondary structures of recombinant SodA and SodB were studied using circular dichroism. Production of YeSodC was not observed even after cloning and expression in E. coli BL21(DE3) cells. A SodA(-) SodB(-) Escherichia coli strain which was unable to grow in medium supplemented with paraquat showed normal growth after complementation with Y. enterocolitica SodA or SodB. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: This is the first report on the distribution and characterization of superoxide dismutases from Y. enterocolitica. The low pH optima of both SodA and SodB encoded by Y. enterocolitica seem to implicate their role in acidic environments such as the intraphagocytic vesicles.
Project description:Francisella tularensis is a highly infectious intracellular bacterium that causes the zoonotic infection tularemia. While much literature exists on the host response to F. tularensis infection, the vast majority of work has been conducted using attenuated strains of Francisella that do not cause disease in humans. However, emerging data indicate that the protective immune response against attenuated F. tularensis versus F. tularensis type A differs. Several groups have recently reported that interleukin-17 (IL-17) confers protection against the live vaccine strain (LVS) of Francisella. While we too have found that IL-17R?(-/-) mice are more susceptible to F. tularensis LVS infection, our studies, using a virulent type A strain of F. tularensis (SchuS4), indicate that IL-17R?(-/-) mice display organ burdens and pulmonary gamma interferon (IFN-?) responses similar to those of wild-type mice following infection. In addition, oral LVS vaccination conferred equivalent protection against pulmonary challenge with SchuS4 in both IL-17R?(-/-) and wild-type mice. While IFN-? was found to be critically important for survival in a convalescent model of SchuS4 infection, IL-17 neutralization from either wild-type or IFN-?(-/-) mice had no effect on morbidity or mortality in this model. IL-17 protein levels were also higher in the lungs of mice infected with the LVS rather than F. tularensis type A, while IL-23p19 mRNA expression was found to be caspase-1 dependent in macrophages infected with LVS but not SchuS4. Collectively, these results demonstrate that IL-17 is dispensable for host immunity to type A F. tularensis infection, and that induced and protective immunity differs between attenuated and virulent strains of F. tularensis.
Project description:Francisella tularensis, the causative agent of tularemia, is a category A bioterrorism agent. A vaccine that is safer and more effective than the currently available unlicensed F. tularensis live vaccine strain (LVS) is needed to protect against intentional release of aerosolized F. tularensis, the most dangerous type of exposure. In this study, we employed a heterologous prime-boost vaccination strategy comprising intradermally administered LVS ?capB (highly attenuated capB-deficient LVS mutant) as the primer vaccine and rLm/iglC (recombinant attenuated Listeria monocytogenes expressing the F. tularensis immunoprotective antigen IglC) as the booster vaccine. Boosting LVS ?capB-primed mice with rLm/iglC significantly enhanced T cell immunity; their splenic T cells secreted significantly more gamma interferon (IFN-?) and had significantly more cytokine (IFN-? and/or tumor necrosis factor [TNF] and/or interleukin-2 [IL-2])-producing CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells upon in vitro IglC stimulation. Importantly, mice primed with LVS ?capB or rLVS ?capB/IglC, boosted with rLm/iglC, and subsequently challenged with 10 50% lethal doses (LD50) of aerosolized highly virulent F. tularensis Schu S4 had a significantly higher survival rate and mean survival time than mice immunized with only LVS ?capB (P < 0.0001); moreover, compared with mice immunized once with LVS, primed-boosted mice had a higher survival rate (75% versus 62.5%) and mean survival time during the first 21 days postchallenge (19 and 20 days for mice boosted after being primed with LVS ?capB and rLVS ?capB/IglC, respectively, versus 17 days for mice immunized with LVS) and maintained their weight significantly better (P < 0.01). Thus, the LVS ?capB-rLm/iglC prime-boost vaccination strategy holds substantial promise for a vaccine that is safer and at least as potent as LVS.
Project description:Bacterial attenuation is typically thought of as reduced bacterial growth in the presence of constant immune pressure. Infection with Francisella tularensis elicits innate and adaptive immune responses. Several in vivo screens have identified F. tularensis genes necessary for virulence. Many of these mutations render F. tularensis defective for intracellular growth. However, some mutations have no impact on intracellular growth, leading us to hypothesize that these F. tularensis mutants are attenuated because they induce an altered host immune response. We were particularly interested in the F. tularensis LVS (live vaccine strain) clpB (FTL_0094) mutant because this strain was attenuated in pneumonic tularemia yet induced a protective immune response. The attenuation of LVS clpB was not due to an intracellular growth defect, as LVS clpB grew similarly to LVS in primary bone marrow-derived macrophages and a variety of cell lines. We therefore determined whether LVS clpB induced an altered immune response compared to that induced by LVS in vivo. We found that LVS clpB induced proinflammatory cytokine production in the lung early after infection, a process not observed during LVS infection. LVS clpB provoked a robust adaptive immune response similar in magnitude to that provoked by LVS but with increased gamma interferon (IFN-?) and interleukin-17A (IL-17A) production, as measured by mean fluorescence intensity. Altogether, our results indicate that LVS clpB is attenuated due to altered host immunity and not an intrinsic growth defect. These results also indicate that disruption of a nonessential gene(s) that is involved in bacterial immune evasion, like F. tularensis clpB, can serve as a model for the rational design of attenuated vaccines.
Project description:Using a panel of vaccines that provided different degrees of protection, we previously identified the IL-12 receptor subunit ?2 as a mediator, whose relative expression correlated with strength of protection against secondary lethal challenge of vaccinated mice with an intracellular bacterium, the LVS of Francisella tularensis. The present study therefore tested the hypothesis that IL-12R?2 is an important mediator in resistance to LVS by directly examining its role during infections. IL-12R?2 KO mice were highly susceptible to LVS primary infection, administered i.d. or i.n. The LD50 of LVS infection of KO mice were 2 logs lower than those of WT mice, regardless of route. Five days after infection with LVS, bacterial organ burdens were significantly higher in IL-12R?2 KO mice. IL-12R?2 KO mice infected with lethal doses of LVS had more severe liver pathology, including significant increases in the liver enzymes ALT and AST. Despite decreased levels of IFN-?, LVS-vaccinated IL-12R?2 KO mice survived large lethal LVS secondary challenge. Consistent with in vivo protection, in vitro intramacrophage LVS growth was well-controlled in cocultures containing WT or IL-12R?2 KO LVS-immune splenocytes. Thus, survival of secondary LVS challenge was not strictly dependent on IL-12R?2. However, IL-12R?2 is important in parenteral and mucosal host resistance to primary LVS infection and in the ability of WT mice to clear LVS infection and serves to restrict liver damage.