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Open Access Research article

Replication of Brucella abortus and Brucella melitensis in fibroblasts does not require Atg5-dependent macroautophagy

Isabelle Hamer1*, Emeline Goffin13, Xavier De Bolle2, Jean-Jacques Letesson2 and Michel Jadot1

Author Affiliations

1 Research Unit in Molecular Physiology (URPhyM), NAmur Research Institute for LIfe Sciences (NARILIS), University of Namur, Namur, Belgium

2 Research Unit in Biology of Microorganisms (URBM), NAmur Research Institute for LIfe Sciences (NARILIS), University of Namur, Namur, Belgium

3 Present address: Faculty of Veterinary Medicine-Department of infectious and parasitic diseases, Laboratory of Immunology and Vaccinology, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium

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BMC Microbiology 2014, 14:223  doi:10.1186/s12866-014-0223-5

Published: 2 September 2014

Abstract

Background

Several intracellular bacterial pathogens have evolved subtle strategies to subvert vesicular trafficking pathways of their host cells to avoid killing and to replicate inside the cells. Brucellae are Gram-negative facultative intracellular bacteria that are responsible for brucellosis, a worldwide extended chronic zoonosis. Following invasion, Brucella abortus is found in a vacuole that interacts first with various endosomal compartments and then with endoplasmic reticulum sub-compartments. Brucella establishes its replication niche in ER-derived vesicles. In the past, it has been proposed that B. abortus passed through the macroautophagy pathway before reaching its niche of replication. However, recent experiments provided evidence that the classical macroautophagy pathway was not involved in the intracellular trafficking and the replication of B. abortus in bone marrow-derived macrophages and in HeLa cells. In contrast, another study showed that macroautophagy favoured the survival and the replication of Brucella melitensis in infected RAW264.7 macrophages. This raises the possibility that B. abortus and B. melitensis followed different intracellular pathways before replicating. In the present work, we have addressed this issue by comparing the replication rate of B. abortus and B. melitensis in embryonic fibroblasts derived from wild-type and Atg5−/− mice, Atg5 being a core component of the canonical macroautophagic pathway.

Results

Our results indicate that both B. abortus S2308 and B. melitensis 16M strains are able to invade and replicate in Atg5-deficient fibroblasts, suggesting that the canonical Atg5-dependent macroautophagic pathway is dispensable for Brucella replication. The number of viable bacteria was even slightly higher in Atg5−/− fibroblasts than in wild-type fibroblasts. This increase could be due to a more efficient uptake or to a better survival rate of bacteria before the beginning of the replication in Atg5-deficient cells as compared to wild-type cells. Moreover, our data show that the infection with B. abortus or with B. melitensis does not stimulate neither the conversion of LC3-I to LC3-II nor the membrane recruitment of LC3 onto the BCV.

Conclusion

Our study suggests that like Brucella abortus, Brucella melitensis does not subvert the canonical macroautophagy to reach its replicative niche or to stimulate its replication.

Keywords:
Brucella abortus; Brucella melitensis; Intracellular trafficking; Replication; Macroautophagy; Atg5