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Streptococcus pyogenes emm98.1 variants activate inflammatory caspases in human neutrophils

ABSTRACT The human pathogen Streptococcus pyogenes (Group A Streptococcus, GAS) is responsible for invasive disease characterized by inflammation and tissue destruction. Inflammatory symptoms of invasive disease may be attributed to the neutrophil response during the early stages of infection. Here, the human neutrophil response to GAS was characterized in vitro using emm98.1 type covS mutant GAS strain NS88.2 (isolated from invasive infection) and avirulent variant NS88.2rep. NS88.2 was shown to resist phagocytic killing and proliferate in the presence of human neutrophils, where neutrophil antimicrobial defence through the production of reactive oxygen species was reduced compared with NS88.2rep. In the presence of NS88.2, neutrophil death was delayed compared with NS88.2rep. Infection with either GAS strain induced expression of inflammatory caspases-1 and -4 in neutrophils, with increased detection of activated inflammatory caspases in response to NS88.2rep compared with NS88.2. NS88.2 infection caused differential expression of cell-surface CD66b, CD16, and CD31, when compared to NS88.2rep. We conclude that the neutrophil response to NS88.2 promotes inflammation and may be a contributing factor to the severity of invasive GAS infections. Abbreviations CovRS, control of virulence regulatory system; GAS, Group A Streptococcus; PMN, polymorphonuclear leukocyte.

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Amphibian Hymenochirus boettgeri as an experimental model for infection studies with the chytrid fungus batrachochytrium dendrobatidis

ABSTRACT Model organisms are crucial in research as they can provide key insights applicable to other species. This study proposes the use of the amphibian species Hymenochirus boettgeri, widely available through the aquarium trade, as a model organism for the study of chytridiomycosis, a disease caused by the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) and linked to amphibian decline and extinction globally. Currently, no model organisms are used in the study of chytridiomycosis, particularly because of the lack of availability and nonstandardized methods. Thus, laboratories around the world use wild local species to conduct Bd infection experiments, which prevents comparisons between studies and reduces reproducibility. Here, we performed a series of Bd infection assays that showed that H. boettgeri has a dose- and genotype-dependent response, can generalize previous findings on virulence estimates in other species, and can generate reproducible results in replicated experimental conditions. We also provided valuable information regarding H. boettgeri husbandry, including care, housing, reproduction, and heat treatment, to eliminate previous Bd infections. Together, our results indicate that H. boettgeri is a powerful and low-ecological-impact system for studying Bd pathogenicity and virulence.

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A novel Galleria mellonella experimental model for zoonotic pathogen Brucella

ABSTRACT Brucellosis is a major threat to public health and animal husbandry. Several in vivo vertebrate models, such as mice, guinea pigs, and nonhuman primates, have been used to study Brucella pathogenesis, bacteria-host interactions, and vaccine efficacy. However, these models have limitations whereas the invertebrate Galleria mellonella model is a cost-effective and ethical alternative. The aim of the present study was to examine the invertebrate G. mellonella as an in vivo infection model for Brucella. Infection assays were employed to validate the fitness of the larval model for Brucella infection and virulence evaluation. The protective efficacy of immune sera was evaluated by pre-incubated with a lethal dose of bacteria before infection. The consistency between the mouse model and the larval model was confirmed by assessing the protective efficacy of two Brucella vaccine strains. The results show that G. mellonella could be infected by Brucella strains, in a dose- and temperature-dependent way. Moreover, this larval model can effectively evaluate the virulence of Brucella strains in a manner consistent with that of mammalian infection models. Importantly, this model can assess the protective efficacy of vaccine immune sera within a day. Further investigation implied that haemolymph played a crucial role in the protective efficacy of immune sera. In conclusion, G. mellonella could serve as a quick, efficient, and reliable model for evaluating the virulence of Brucella strains and efficacy of immune sera in an ethical manner.

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Clostridium innocuum, an emerging pathogen that induces lipid raft-mediated cytotoxicity

ABSTRACT Clostridium innocuum is an emerging spore-forming anaerobe that is often observed in Clostridioides difficile-associated inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) exacerbations. Unlike C. difficile, C. innocuum neither produces toxins nor possesses toxin-encoding genetic loci, but is commonly found in both intestinal and extra-intestinal infections. Membrane lipid rafts are composed of dynamic assemblies of cholesterol and sphingolipids, allowing bacteria to gain access to cells. However, the direct interaction between C. innocuum and lipid rafts that confers bacteria the ability to disrupt the intestinal barrier and induce pathogenesis remains unclear. In this study, we investigated the associations among nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain containing 2 (NOD2), lipid rafts, and cytotoxicity in C. innocuum-infected gut epithelial cells. Our results revealed that lipid rafts were involved in C. innocuum-induced NOD2 expression and nuclear factor (NF)-κB activation, triggering an inflammatory response. Reducing cholesterol by simvastatin significantly dampened C. innocuum-induced cell death, indicating that the C. innocuum-induced pathogenicity of cells was lipid raft-dependent. These results demonstrate that NOD2 mobilization into membrane rafts in response to C. innocuum-induced cytotoxicity results in aggravated pathogenicity.

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Influenza enhances host susceptibility to non-pulmonary invasive Streptococcus pyogenes infections

ABSTRACT Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus; GAS) causes a variety of invasive diseases (iGAS) such as bacteremia, toxic shock syndrome, and pneumonia, which are associated with high mortality despite the susceptibility of the bacteria to penicillin ex vivo. Epidemiologic studies indicate that respiratory influenza virus infection is associated with an increase in the frequency of iGAS diseases, including those not directly involving the lung. We modified a murine model of influenza A (IAV)-GAS superinfection to determine if viral pneumonia increased the susceptibility of mice subsequently infected with GAS in the peritoneum. The results showed that respiratory IAV infection increased the morbidity (weight loss) of mice infected intraperitoneally (i.p.) with GAS 3, 5, and 10 d after the initial viral infection. Mortality was also significantly increased when mice were infected with GAS 3 and 5 d after pulmonary IAV infection. Increased mortality among mice infected with virus 5 d prior to bacterial infection correlated with increased dissemination of GAS from the peritoneum to the blood, spleen, and lungs. The interval was also associated with a significant increase in the pro-inflammatory cytokines IFN-γ, IL-12, TNF-α, MCP-1 and IL-27 in sera. We conclude, using a murine model, that respiratory influenza virus infection increases the likelihood and severity of systemic iGAS disease, even when GAS infection does not originate in the respiratory tract.

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Anti-virulence strategy of diaryl chalcogenide compounds against Candida albicans infection

ABSTRACT Candida albicans is an important opportunistic pathogenic fungus that frequently causes serious systemic infection in humans. Due to the vital roles of biofilm formation and the yeast-to-hypha transition in the infection process, we have selected a series of diaryl chalcogenides and tested their efficacy against C. albicans SC5314 pathogenicity by the inhibition of biofilm formation and the yeast-to-hypha transition. The compounds 5-sulfenylindole and 5-selenylindole were found to have excellent abilities to inhibit both biofilm formation and hyphal formation in C. albicans SC5314. Intriguingly, the two leading compounds also markedly attenuated C. albicans SC5314 virulence in human cell lines and mouse infection models at micromolar levels. Furthermore, our results showed that the presence of the compounds at 100 µM resulted in a marked decrease in the expression of genes involved in the cAMP-PKA and MAPK pathways in C. albicans SC5314. Intriguingly, the compounds 5-sulfenylindole and 5-selenylindole not only attenuated the cytotoxicity of Candida species strains but also showed excellent synergistic effects with antifungal agents against the clinical drug-resistant C. albicans strain HCH12. The compound 5-sulfenylindole showed an obvious advantage over fluconazole as it could also restore the composition and richness of the intestinal microbiota in mice infected by C. albicans. Together, these results suggest that diaryl chalcogenides can potentially be designed as novel clinical therapeutic agents against C. albicans infection. The diaryl chalcogenides of 5-sulfenylindole and 5-selenylindole discovered in this study can provide new direction for developing antifungal agents against C. albicans infection.

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Exploring the modulatory impact of isosakuranetin on Staphylococcus aureus: Inhibition of sortase A activity and α-haemolysin expression

ABSTRACT The ubiquity of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and the mounting prevalence of antibiotic resistance necessitate the identification of novel therapeutic approaches to reduce the selective pressure of antibiotics. Targeting bacterial virulence factors, such as the pivotal Sortase A (SrtA) in S. aureus for adhesion and invasion, and the salient toxin α-Hemolysin (Hla), offers a sophisticated approach to attenuate pathogenicity without bacterial elimination. Herein, we report the discovery of a flavonoid, isosakuranetin, which inhibits the activity of S. aureus SrtA. A fluorescence resonance energy transfer assay revealed that isosakuranetin exhibited a low IC50 of 21.20 μg/mL. Furthermore, isosakuranetin significantly inhibited SrtA-related virulence properties, such as bacterial adhesion to fibrinogen, biofilm formation, and invasion of A549 cells. We employed fluorescence quenching and molecular docking to determine the interactions between isosakuranetin and SrtA, revealing the key amino acid sites for binding. Importantly, isosakuranetin inhibited the haemolytic activity of S. aureus in vitro at a concentration of 32 μg/mL. Moreover, isosakuranetin effectively suppressed the transcription and expression of Hla in a dose-dependent manner and regulated the transcription of RNAIII, the upstream operator of Hla. Notably, isosakuranetin demonstrated in vivo efficacy in a mouse model of S. aureus-induced pneumonia by significantly improving survival rates and reducing lung damage. This is a valuable finding, as isosakuranetin’s dual inhibitory effects on SrtA and haemolytic activity, as well as its anti-virulence activity against MRSA, make it an excellent candidate for therapeutic development.

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Staphylococcus aureus planktonic but not biofilm environment induces an IFN-β macrophage immune response via the STING/IRF3 pathway

ABSTRACT Chronic implant-related bone infections are a severe complication in orthopaedic surgery. Biofilm formation on the implant impairs the immune response, leading to bacterial persistence. In a previous study, we found that Staphylococcus aureus (SA) induced interferon regulatory factor 3 (IRF3) activation and Ifnb expression only in its planktonic form but not in the biofilm. The aim of this study was to clarify the role of the stimulator of interferon genes (STING) in this process. We treated RAW 264.7 macrophages with conditioned media (CM) generated from planktonic or biofilm cultured SA in combination with agonists or inhibitors of the cyclic GMP-AMP synthase (cGAS)/STING pathway. We further evaluated bacterial gene expression of planktonic and biofilm SA to identify potential mediators. STING inhibition resulted in the loss of IRF3 activation and Ifnb induction in SA planktonic CM, whereas STING activation induced an IRF3 dependent IFN-β response in SA biofilm CM. The expression levels of virulence-associated genes decreased during biofilm formation, but genes associated with cyclic dinucleotide (CDN) synthesis did not correlate with Ifnb induction. We further observed that cGAS contributed to Ifnb induction by SA planktonic CM, although cGAS activation was not sufficient to induce Ifnb expression in SA biofilm CM. Our data indicate that the different degrees of virulence associated with SA planktonic and biofilm environments result in an altered induction of the IRF3 mediated IFN-β response via the STING pathway. This finding suggests that the STING/IRF3/IFN-β axis is a potential candidate as an immunotherapeutic target for implant-related bone infections.

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Flanking N- and C-terminal domains of PrsA in Streptococcus suis type 2 are crucial for inducing cell death independent of TLR2 recognition

ABSTRACT Streptococcus suis type 2 (SS2), a major emerging/re-emerging zoonotic pathogen found in humans and pigs, can cause severe clinical infections, and pose public health issues. Our previous studies recognized peptidyl-prolyl isomerase (PrsA) as a critical virulence factor promoting SS2 pathogenicity. PrsA contributed to cell death and operated as a pro-inflammatory effector. However, the molecular pathways through which PrsA contributes to cell death are poorly understood. Here in this study, we prepared the recombinant PrsA protein and found that pyroptosis and necroptosis were involved in cell death stimulated by PrsA. Specific pyroptosis and necroptosis signalling inhibitors could significantly alleviate the fatal effect. Cleaved caspase-1 and IL-1β in pyroptosis with phosphorylated MLKL proteins in necroptosis pathways, respectively, were activated after PrsA stimulation. Truncated protein fragments of enzymatic PPIase domain (PPI), N-terminal (NP), and C-terminal (PC) domains fused with PPIase, were expressed and purified. PrsA flanking N- or C-terminal but not enzymatic PPIase domain was found to be critical for PrsA function in inducing cell death and inflammation. Additionally, PrsA protein could be anchored on the cell surface to interact with host cells. However, Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2) was not implicated in cell death and recognition of PrsA. PAMPs of PrsA could not promote TLR2 activation, and no rescued phenotypes of death were shown in cells blocking of TLR2 receptor or signal-transducing adaptor of MyD88. Overall, these data, for the first time, advanced our perspective on PrsA function and elucidated that PrsA-induced cell death requires its flanking N- or C-terminal domain but is dispensable for recognizing TLR2. Further efforts are still needed to explore the precise molecular mechanisms of PrsA-inducing cell death and, therefore, contribution to SS2 pathogenicity.

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