Characterization of the PdpA protein and its role in the intracellular lifestyle of Francisella novicida




Schmerk, Crystal Lynn

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Francisella tularensis is a highly virulent, intracellular pathogen that causes the disease tularaemia. Francisella species contain a cluster of genes referred to as the Francisella pathogenicity island (FPI). Several genes contained in the FPI encode proteins needed for the intracellular growth and virulence of Francisella tularensis. Pathogenicity determinant protein A (PdpA), encoded by the pdpA gene, is located within the FPI and has been associated with the virulence of Francisella species. The experiments outlined in this dissertation examine the properties of PdpA protein expression and localization as well as the phenotypes of non-polar F. novicida pdpA mutants. Monoclonal antibody detection of PdpA showed that it is a soluble protein that is upregulated in iron-limiting conditions and undetectable in an mglA or mglB mutant background. Deletion of pdpA resulted in a strain that was highly attenuated for virulence in chicken embryos and mice. The ΔpdpA strain was capable of a small amount of intracellular replication but, unlike wild-type F. novicida, remained associated with the lysosomal marker LAMP-1, suggesting that PdpA is necessary for progression from the early phagosome phase of infection. Infection of macrophages with the ΔpdpA mutant generated a host-cell mRNA profile distinct from that generated by infection with wild type F. novicida. The transcriptional response of the host macrophage indicates that PdpA functions directly or indirectly to suppress macrophage ability to signal via growth factors, cytokines and adhesion ligands. Experiments were designed to mutagenize a putative F-box domain within the amino terminus of PdpA. Deletion of amino acids 112-227 created a strain which was impaired in intracellular replication and exhibited severely reduced virulence. However, alanine mutagenesis of key conserved leucine residues required for the interaction of F-box domains with host proteins had no observed effect on bacterial growth in macrophages and did not affect virulence in chicken embryos or mice. Mono and polyubiquitinated proteins associated with both the wild type F. novicida and ΔpdpA bacterial strains early during the infection of J774A.1 macrophages. After 1 hour of infection the wild type strain developed a more intimate association with mono and polyubiquitinated proteins whereas the ΔpdpA strain did not. Inhibition of the host cell proteasome during infection did not affect the intracellular growth of wild type F. novicida. PdpA research concludes by examining the secretion patterns of F. novicida. PdpA was not detected as a surface exposed protein using biotinylation whereas IglA, IglB and IglC were found to be surface exposed in both wild type and ΔpdpA backgrounds. These observations suggest that PdpA is not involved in the assembly or function of the Francisella secretion system. FLAG tagged PdpA protein could not be detected in the TCA precipitated supernatant of broth grown cultures or in the immunoprecipitated cytosol of infected macrophages suggesting that PdpA is not a secreted protein.



Francisella tularensis, pathogenicity island, type VI secretion, molecular biology, phagosome maturation, ubiquitination, PdpA