Release of outer membrane vesicles by Gram-negative bacteria is a novel envelope stress response.
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Conditions that impair protein folding in the Gram-negative bacterial envelope cause stress. The destabilizing effects of stress in this compartment are recognized and countered by a number of signal transduction mechanisms. Data presented here reveal another facet of the complex bacterial stress response, release of outer membrane vesicles. Native vesicles are composed of outer membrane and periplasmic material, and they are released from the bacterial surface without loss of membrane integrity. Here we demonstrate that the quantity of vesicle release correlates directly with the level of protein accumulation in the cell envelope. Accumulation of material occurs under stress, and is exacerbated upon impairment of the normal housekeeping and stress-responsive mechanisms of the cell. Mutations that cause increased vesiculation enhance bacterial survival upon challenge with stressing agents or accumulation of toxic misfolded proteins. Preferential packaging of a misfolded protein mimic into vesicles for removal indicates that the vesiculation process can act to selectively eliminate unwanted material. Our results demonstrate that production of bacterial outer membrane vesicles is a fully independent, general envelope stress response. In addition to identifying a novel mechanism for alleviating stress, this work provides physiological relevance for vesicle production as a protective mechanism.
Published Version (Please cite this version)
McBroom, Amanda J, and Meta J Kuehn (2007). Release of outer membrane vesicles by Gram-negative bacteria is a novel envelope stress response. Mol Microbiol, 63(2). pp. 545–558. 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2006.05522.x Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/10658.
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Enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC) causes traveler's diarrhea and infant mortality in underdeveloped countries, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an opportunistic pathogen for immunocompromised patients. Like all gram negative bacteria studied to date, ETEC and P. aeruginosa produce small outer membrane vesicles that can serve as delivery "bombs" to host tissues. Vesicles contain a subset of outer membrane and soluble periplasmic proteins and lipids. In tissues and sera of infected hosts, vesicles have been observed to bud from the pathogen and come in close contact with epithelial cells. Despite their association with disease, the ability of pathogenic bacteria to distribute an arsenal of virulence factors to the host cells via vesicles remains relatively unexplored.
In our lab, we focus on the genetic, biochemical and functional features of bacterial vesicle production. Using a genetic screen, we have identified genes essential in the vesiculation process, we have identified specific proteins that are enriched in vesicles, and we have identified critical molecules that govern the internalization of vesicles into host cells. Using biochemical analysis of purified vesicles from cell-free culture supernatants, we have found that heat-labile enterotoxin, an important virulence factor of ETEC, is exported from the cells bound to the external surface of vesicles. Presented in this context, it is able to mediate the entry of the entire ETEC vesicle into human colorectal tissue culture cells. We have also discovered that the ability of vesicles to bind to specific cell types depends on their strain of origin: for example, P. aeruginosa vesicles produced by a strain that was cultured from the lungs of a patient with Cystic Fibrosis adhered better to lung than to gut epithelial cells, whereas a strain that was isolated from sera showed no such preference for lung cells. The vesicles stimulate epithelial cells and macrophages to elicit a cytokine response that is distinct from that of LPS (a major component of the vesicles) alone.
These studies will provide new insights into the membrane dynamics of gram-negative bacteria and consequently aid in the identification of new therapeutic targets for important human pathogens.
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