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
Cells communicate in a dynamic code
19.02.2018 | California Institute of Technology
Studying mitosis' structure to understand the inside of cancer cells
19.02.2018 | Biophysical Society
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters
Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences
19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences
19.02.2018 | Life Sciences