Some bacteria thwart this effort by ripping the bag open and then escaping into the macrophage’s nutrient-rich cytosol compartment, where they divide and could eventually go on to invade other cells.
Miao lab, UNC School of Medicine.
Shown in red are bacteria that have invaded host cells and escaped into the interior cytosolic compartment of the cell.
But research from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine shows that macrophages have a suicide alarm system, a signaling pathway to detect this escape into the cytosol. The pathway activates an enzyme, called caspase-11, that triggers a program in the macrophage to destroy itself.
“It’s almost like a thief sneaking into the house not knowing an alarm will go off to knock down the walls and expose him to capture by the police,” says study senior and corresponding author Edward Miao, PhD, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at UNC. “In the macrophage, this cell death, called pyroptosis, expels the bacterium from the cell, exposing it to other immune defense mechanisms.”
A report of the research appears online in the journal Science on Thursday January 24, 2013.
Miao, also a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, says the new findings show that having this detection pathway protects mice from lethal infection with the type of vacuole-escaping Burkholderia species: B. thailandensis and B. pseudomallei.
Both are close relatives. But they differ in lethality. B. pseudomallei is potentially a biological weapon. Used in a spray, it could potentially infect people via aerosol route, causing sickness and death. Moreover, it also could fall into a latent phase, “essentially turning into a ‘sleeper’ inside the lungs and hiding there for decades,” Miao explains. In contrast, B. thailandensis, which shares many properties with its species counterpart, is not normally able to cause any disease or infection
These environmental bacteria are ubiquitous throughout S.E. Asia, and were it not for the caspase-11 pathway defense system, that part of the world could be uninhabitable, Miao points out.
This grim possibility clearly emerged in the study. Mice that lack the caspase-11 detection pathway succumb to infection not only by B. pseudomallei, but also to the normally benign B. thailandensis. “Thus caspase-11 is critical for surviving exposure to ubiquitous environmental pathogens,” the authors conclude.
Miao points to research elsewhere showing that the pathway’s abnormal activation in people with septic shock, overwhelming bacterial infection of the blood, is associated with death. “We discovered what the pathway is supposed to do, which may help find ways to tone it down in people with that critical condition.
As to bioterrorism, the researcher says it may be possible to use certain drugs already on the market that safely induce the caspase-11 pathway. “Since this pathway requires pre-stimulation with interferon cytokines, it is conceivable that pre-treating people with interferon drugs could ameliorate a bioterror incident. This could be quite important in the case of Burkholderia, since these bacteria are naturally resistant to numerous antibiotics.
“But first we have to find out if they would work in animal models, and consider the logistics of interferon stockpiling, which are currently cost prohibitive.”
UNC co-authors are Youssef Aachoui, Jon A. Hagar, Peggy A. Cotter and Christine G. Campos. Alan Aderem, Irina A. Leaf, Daniel E. Zak are from Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, Seattle, Wash. Russell E. Vance, Mary F. Fontana and Michael Tan are from the department of molecular and cell biology, University of California at Berkeley.
This work was supported by NIH grants AI097518 (E.A.M.) and AI057141 (E.A.M. and A.A.), AI065359 (P.A.C.), AI075039 (R.E.V.), AI080749 (R.E.V.), and AI063302 (R.E.V.) Investigator Awards from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and Cancer Research Institute (R.E.V.), and an NSF graduate fellowship (M.F.F.).
Les Lang | Newswise
A cell senses its own curves: New research from the MBL Whitman Center
29.04.2016 | Marine Biological Laboratory
A New Discovery in the Fight against Cancer: Tumor Cells Switch to a Different Mode
29.04.2016 | Universität Basel
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute Stuttgart have developed self-propelled tiny ‘microbots’ that can remove lead or organic pollution from contaminated water.
Working with colleagues in Barcelona and Singapore, Samuel Sánchez’s group used graphene oxide to make their microscale motors, which are able to adsorb lead...
Neutron scattering and computational modeling have revealed unique and unexpected behavior of water molecules under extreme confinement that is unmatched by any known gas, liquid or solid states.
In a paper published in Physical Review Letters, researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory describe a new tunneling state of...
Honeycomb structures as the basic building block for industrial applications presented using holo pyramid
Researchers of the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) will introduce their latest developments in the field of bionic lightweight design at Hannover Messe from 25...
Polymer solar cells can be even cheaper and more reliable thanks to a breakthrough by scientists at Linköping University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). This work is about avoiding costly and unstable fullerenes.
Polymer solar cells can be even cheaper and more reliable thanks to a breakthrough by scientists at Linköping University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences...
As one of the leading R&D partners in the development of surface technologies and organic electronics, the Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP will be exhibiting its recent achievements in vacuum coating of ultra-thin glass at SVC TechCon 2016 (Booth 846), taking place in Indianapolis / USA from May 9 – 13.
Fraunhofer FEP is an experienced partner for technological developments, known for testing the limits of new materials and for optimization of those materials...
27.04.2016 | Event News
15.04.2016 | Event News
12.04.2016 | Event News
29.04.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
29.04.2016 | Health and Medicine
29.04.2016 | Life Sciences