Cellular and molecular mechanisms of human endothelial cell plasma membrane remodeling by Neisseria meningitidis

Abstract : Neisseria meningitidis is a diderm bacterium that is naturally found in the human nasopharynx as a commensal. Occasionally, it can cross the mucosa and reach the underlying blood vessels where it enters the circulation. Once in the bloodstream, it can cause severe septic shock and/or meningitis. The ability of N. meningitidis to cause disease is tightly linked to its ability to interact with human endothelial cells. In particular, upon bacterial adhesion via filamentous organelles called type IV pili, bacteria remodel the host cell plasma membrane in the form of actin-rich, filopodia-like protrusions. These protrusions allow bacteria to resist blood flow-generated shear stress and proliferate on top of the host cells. Unlike many other bacterial pathogens, plasma membrane remodeling induced by N. meningitidis does not require actin polymerization. Yet, the cellular and molecular mechanisms of this process are unknown. Here, we show that upon adhesion of individual bacteria, the host cell plasma membrane deforms by adhering along type IV pili fibers in a wetting-like fashion. Therefore, type IV pili act as an extracellular scaffold that guide plasma membrane protrusions in an F-actin-independent manner. We further show that the ability of the plasma membrane to deform along nanoscale adhesive structures is an intrinsic property of endothelial cells. Therefore, this study uncovers the mechanism of a key step of N. meningitidis pathophysiology and reveals novel properties of human cell plasma membrane that could be at play in other fundamental cellular processes.
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Arthur Charles-Orszag. Cellular and molecular mechanisms of human endothelial cell plasma membrane remodeling by Neisseria meningitidis. Infectious diseases. Université Sorbonne Paris Cité, 2017. English. ⟨NNT : 2017USPCB045⟩. ⟨tel-02121588⟩

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