RESEARCH SUPPORT, U.S. GOV'T, P.H.S.
Turning Yersinia pathogenesis outside in: subversion of macrophage function by intracellular yersiniae.
Three bacterial species within the genus Yersinia are causative agents of human disease. Yersinia pestis is transmitted by fleas or in aerosols, infects regional lymph nodes or lungs, and causes the highly lethal disease known as plague. Yersinia enterocolitica and Yersinia pseudotuberculosis are enteric pathogens most commonly associated with self-limiting infections of the mesenteric lymph nodes. Although Y. pestis and the enteropathogenic Yersinia species utilize different modes of transmission and cause different diseases, they rely on a common set of "core" virulence determinants to successfully infect a mammalian host. These virulence factors are encoded on the bacterial chromosome and on an approximately 70-kb plasmid. Once established in lymphoid tissue, all three Yersinia species replicate as aggregates of extracellular bacteria within necrotic lesions or abscesses. At this stage of the infectious process, the bacteria resist phagocytosis by neutrophils, which are able to destroy the bacteria if they are internalized. A type III secretion system encoded on the 70-kb plasmid functions to export multiple proteins (the Yops and LcrV) that are delivered to the extracellular milieu, the plasma membrane, or the cytosol of a host target cell. The Yops and LcrV act in concert to inhibit phagocytosis and downregulate inflammation. Although it is clear that the bulk of bacterial multiplication occurs in an extracellular phase, there is also evidence that all three pathogenic Yersinia survive and multiply in macrophages. Survival and replication of Yersinia in macrophages may occur throughout the infection, but is likely to be of greatest importance at early stages of colonization. That macrophages can serve as permissive sites for bacterial replication in vivo is supported by in vitro experiments, which demonstrate that Y. pestis, Y. peudotuberculosis, and Y. enterocolitica share the ability to survive and multiply in macrophage phagosomes. There is also evidence that the bacteria can subvert the functions of macrophages from within, by inhibiting phagosome acidification (Y. pseudotuberculosis) and the production of nitric oxide (Y. pestis and Y. pseudotuberculosis). Although considerable attention has been focused on how Yersinia subverts the functions of phagocytes from the outside, the study of how these bacteria subvert macrophage functions from the inside will lead to a better overall understanding of Yersinia pathogenesis.
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