Mechanisms by Which Guanylate Binding Proteins Target Pathogen Vacuoles and Promote Caspase-11 Dependent Pyroptosis

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Guanylate binding proteins (Gbps) are a family of large GTPases that are highly stimulated by IFNγ and confer resistance to various viral, protozoan, and bacterial pathogens. Following infections of intracellular pathogens, multiple Gbps can localize to pathogen vacuoles and promote the vesiculation and destruction of these structures. While Gbps have also been implicated in pathways independent of vacuolar disruption, their roles in these processes have been less characterized. In this dissertation, I focus on the mechanism of Gbps downstream of vacuolar disruption in order to further elucidate the role of these proteins during immune responses.

Due to the IFNγ stimulation of caspase-11 pyroptosis, I first addressed the ability of Gbps to promote the non-canonical caspase-11 dependent pathway of pyroptosis. I found that Gbpchr3-/- cells had reduced cell death in response to the vacuolar pathogen, L. pneumophila, and various LPS ligands. Using YFP-Gal3 as a marker for damaged membranes, I showed that there were equivalent levels of damaged pathogen vacuoles between WT and Gbpchr3-/- cells suggesting these proteins promoted pyroptosis independently of vacuolar disruption. Instead, it appears that Gbps modulate the activation of caspase-11 following LPS release into the cytosol.

The recruitment of Gbps is mediated by multiple host proteins including the Immunity Related GTPases and the autophagy conjugation system. I found in the second study that at least one Gbp, Gbp2, was also recruited to damaged vacuoles through the aid of Galectin-3, a β-galactoside binding protein, as well as the autophagy adaptor protein, p62. As all three proteins were also recruited to sterile damaged vesicles created by hypotonic shock, calcium phosphate precipitates, and lysosomal damage, it suggests Gbps are recruited through a universal mechanism which is independent of PAMP recognition. Interactions between p62, Gbp2, and Gal3 present a model whereby p62 facilitates the recruitment of Gbp2 to damaged membranes through interactions with Galectin-3. Their localization to these sites may subsequently facilitate autophagic degradation of membranes or promote the recruitment of pyroptotic complexes to modulate immune functions although this remains to be elucidated.

This dissertation examines the less characterized roles of Gbps downstream of vacuolar disruption. By uncovering these alternative pathways, this work provides a foundation to study the variations within the Gbp family and allows for the field to further understand the mechanisms by which they promote cellular immune responses.





Moffett, Danielle (2015). Mechanisms by Which Guanylate Binding Proteins Target Pathogen Vacuoles and Promote Caspase-11 Dependent Pyroptosis. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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