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Host response and bacterial virulence during acute and persistent Burkholderia cepacia complex infection using zebrafish embryos

Abstract : Bacteria belonging to the Burkholderia cepacia complex (Bcc) can cause chronic infection with periods of acute exacerbation and sometimes fatal necrotizing pneumonia (“cepacia syndrome”) in individuals with cystic fibrosis (CF), and are associated with poor prognosis. Here, we exploited the exciting possibilities for in vivo non-invasive imaging of Bcc infection in transparent zebrafish embryos, with an innate immune system with remarkable similarity to that of humans, and numerous genetic and genomic tools to study the role of host phagocytes and the innate immune response in the pro-inflammatory character of the infection.We show that macrophages play a critical role in intracellular multiplication of B. cenocepacia K56-2 and induction of a MyD88-dependent fatal inflammatory response, characterised by high levels of cxcl8 and il1b expression. Surprisingly, in sharp contrast to the situation found for infections with other pathogens including Mycobacterium marinum and Staphylococcus aureus, in the absence of macrophages, K56-2 survived but was unable to replicate in the first 24 h, which resulted in a significant pro-survival advantage to the host compared to wild type embryos that died within 2 to 3 days. The Toll-like receptor (TLR) pathway is a major arm of the cell-mediated innate immune response with MyD88 as a key adaptor protein involved in the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. We found that the absence of MyD88 also provided a pro-survival effect to the embryos after infection with K56-2. Paradoxically, the bacteria replicated better in myd88-/- mutant than wild type embryos, suggesting that it is not bacterial burden per se, but the inflammatory response that kills the embryos. Interestingly, cxcl8 and il1b expression were not significantly induced during the first 7 hours in the myd88-/- mutant while a strong induction was seen in control embryos, suggesting that a Myd88-dependent inflammatory response during early macrophage stages significantly contributes to fatal infection.Next, we performed RNAseq to analyse global changes in host gene expression during acute and persistent infection induced by K56-2 and B. stabilis LMG14294 respectively. Whereas acute infection was characterised by strong modulation of host gene expression increasing over time, persistent infection showed modulation of only a small set of genes. TLR and apoptosis signaling pathways were amongst the strongly activated groups during acute infection, in line with the strong inflammatory character of K56-2. During persistent infection, the major differentially expressed gene set concerned genes encoding complement proteins. The critical role for macrophages in Bcc infection in zebrafish is in agreement with recent clinical observations. We suggest that the intracellular stages of B. cenocepacia and the ensuing inflammatory response are essential targets to explore for the development of new therapies to combat this infection.
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Jennifer Mesureur. Host response and bacterial virulence during acute and persistent Burkholderia cepacia complex infection using zebrafish embryos. Animal biology. Université Montpellier, 2015. English. ⟨NNT : 2015MONTT024⟩. ⟨tel-02936456⟩

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