Roles of membrane vesicles in bacterial pathogenesis

Abstract: The production of membranous vesicles is observed to occur among organisms from all domains of the tree of life spanning prokaryotes (bacteria, archaea) and eukaryotes (plants, animals and fungi). Bacterial release of membrane-derived vesicles (MVs) has been studied most extensively in cases of Gram-negative species and implicating their outer membrane in formation of extracellular MVs. However, recent studies focusing on Gram-positive bacteria have established that they also undergo MV formation. Membrane vesicles are released during normal bacterial growth, they are derived from the bacterial membrane(s) and may function as transporters of different proteins, DNA and RNA to the neighbouring bacteria or to the cells of a mammalian host. The transport of virulence factors in a condensed manner via MVs to the host cells presumably protects these proteins from degradation and, thereby, targets the host cells in a specific manner.The aim of my thesis is to investigate secretion of MV-associated virulence factors and to study interactions of MVs produced by two selected Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria, i.e. Vibrio cholerae and Listeria monocytogenes, with eukaryotic host cells. Depending on whether the bacterium acts as an extracellular or intracellular pathogen, MVs may be considered to have specific functions, which may lead to the different outcomes of MV-host interactions.V. cholerae transport systems for virulence factors include the Type VI secretion system and MVs (also referred to as the “Type 0” secretion system). We have identified that the biologically active form of PrtV protease in different V. cholerae serogroups is transported via MVs. PrtV protease is essential for V. cholerae environmental survival and protection from natural predator grazing. We demonstrated that PrtV is primarily translocated via the inner membrane to the periplasmic space, where it undergoes autoproteolysis, and the truncated version of PrtV protein is packaged inside the MVs and released from the surface of bacteria. MV-associated PrtV protease showed a contribution to bacterial resistance towards the antimicrobial peptide LL-37, thereby, enhancing bacterial survival by avoiding this innate immune defense of the host.We also studied another virulence factor of V. cholerae, the pore-forming toxin VCC, which was found to be transported by MVs. MV-associated VCC is biologically active and triggers an autophagic response in the target cells. We suggested that autophagy serves as a cellular defense mechanism against the MV-associated bacterial virulence factor of V. cholerae. Listeria monocytogenes is a Gram-positive intracellular and facultative anaerobic food-borne pathogen causing listeriosis. It causes only sporadic outbreaks in healthy individuals, however, it is dangerous for a fetus or newborn child, and for pregnant and immunocompromised people, leading to a deadly infection in one third of the cases. We have analyzed MVs produced by L. monocytogenes and their interaction with eukaryotic cells. Confocal microscopy analysis showed that MVs are internalized into HeLa and HEK293 cells and are accumulated in lysosomes. Moreover, L. monocytogenes produces MVs inside the host cells and even inside the phagosomes. We found that the major virulence factor of L. monocytogenes, the cholesterol-dependent pore-forming protein listeriolysin O (LLO), is entrapped inside the MVs and resides there in an oxidized inactive state. LLO is known to induce autophagy by making pores in the phagosomal membrane of targeted eukaryotic cells. In our studies, we have shown that MVs effectively abrogated autophagy induced by Torin1, by purified LLO or by another pore-forming toxin from V. cholerae. We also found that MVs promote bacterial intracellular survival inside mouse embryonic fibroblasts. In addition, MVs have been shown to have a strong protective activity against host cell necrosis initiated by pore-forming toxin. Taken together, these findings suggested that in vivo MVs production from L. monocytogenes might be a relevant strategy of bacteria to manipulate host responses and to promote bacterial survival inside the host cells.