Iron-Regulated phospholipase C Activity contributes to the cytolytic activity and virulence of acinetobacter baumannii

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Abstract

Acinetobacter baumannii is an opportunistic Gram-negative pathogen that causes a wide range of infections including pneumonia, septicemia, necrotizing fasciitis and severe wound and urinary tract infections. Analysis of A. baumannii representative strains grown in Chelex 100-treated medium for hemolytic activity demonstrated that this pathogen is increasingly hemolytic to sheep, human and horse erythrocytes, which interestingly contain increasing amounts of phosphatidylcholine in their membranes. Bioinformatic, genetic and functional analyses of 19 A. baumannii isolates showed that the genomes of each strain contained two phosphatidylcholine-specific phospholipase C (PC-PLC) genes, which were named plc1 and plc2. Accordingly, all of these strains were significantly hemolytic to horse erythrocytes and their culture supernatants tested positive for PC-PLC activity. Further analyses showed that the transcriptional expression of plc1 and plc2 and the production of phospholipase and thus hemolytic activity increased when bacteria were cultured under iron-chelation as compared to iron-rich conditions. Testing of the A. baumannii ATCC 19606T plc1::aph-FRT and plc2::aph isogenic insertion derivatives showed that these mutants had a significantly reduced PC-PLC activity as compared to the parental strain, while testing of plc1::ermAM/ plc2::aph demonstrated that this double PC-PLC isogenic mutant expressed significantly reduced cytolytic and hemolytic activity. Interestingly, only plc1 was shown to contribute significantly to A. baumannii virulence using the Galleria mellonella infection model. Taken together, our data demonstrate that both PLC1 and PLC2, which have diverged from a common ancestor, play a concerted role in hemolytic and cytolytic activities; although PLC1 seems to play a more critical role in the virulence of A. baumannii when tested in an invertebrate model. These activities would provide access to intracellular iron stores this pathogen could use during growth in the infected host.

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Fiester, S. E., Arivett, B. A., Schmidt, R. E., Beckett, A. C., Ticak, T., Carrier, M. V., … Actis, L. A. (2016). Iron-Regulated phospholipase C Activity contributes to the cytolytic activity and virulence of acinetobacter baumannii. PLoS ONE, 11(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0167068

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