Infection with the obligate bacterial intracellular pathogen Chlamydia trachomatis leads to the sustained activation of the small GTPase RAS and many of its downstream signaling components. In particular, the mitogen-activated protein kinase ERK and the calcium-dependent phospholipase cPLA(2) are activated and are important for the onset of inflammatory responses. In this study we tested if activation of ERK and cPLA(2) occurred as a result of RAS signaling during infection and determined the relative contribution of these signaling components to chlamydial replication and survival. We provide genetic and pharmacological evidence that during infection RAS, ERK, and, to a lesser extent, cPLA(2) activation are uncoupled, suggesting that Chlamydia activates individual components of this signaling pathway in a non-canonical manner. In human cell lines, inhibition of ERK or cPLA(2) signaling did not adversely impact C. trachomatis replication. In contrast, in murine cells, inhibition of ERK and cPLA(2) played a significant protective role against C. trachomatis. We determined that cPLA(2)-deficient murine cells are permissive for C. trachomatis replication because of their impaired expression of beta interferon and the induction of immunity-related GTPases (IRG) important for the containment of intracellular pathogens. Furthermore, the MAPK p38 was primarily responsible for cPLA(2) activation in Chlamydia-infected cells and IRG expression. Overall, these findings define a previously unrecognized role for cPLA(2) in the induction of cell autonomous cellular immunity to Chlamydia and highlight the many non-canonical signaling pathways engaged during infection.
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