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      Immunomodulatory Effects of Pneumococcal Extracellular Vesicles on Cellular and Humoral Host Defenses

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          Gram-positive bacteria, including the major respiratory pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae, were recently shown to produce extracellular vesicles (EVs) that likely originate from the plasma membrane and are released into the extracellular environment. EVs may function as cargo for many bacterial proteins, however, their involvement in cellular processes and their interactions with the innate immune system are poorly understood. Here, EVs from pneumococci were characterized and their immunomodulatory effects investigated. Pneumococcal EVs were protruding from the bacterial surface and released into the medium as 25 to 250 nm lipid stained vesicles containing a large number of cytosolic, membrane, and surface-associated proteins. The cytosolic pore-forming toxin pneumolysin was significantly enriched in EVs compared to a total bacterial lysate but was not required for EV formation. Pneumococcal EVs were internalized into A549 lung epithelial cells and human monocyte-derived dendritic cells and induced proinflammatory cytokine responses irrespective of pneumolysin content. EVs from encapsulated pneumococci were recognized by serum proteins, resulting in C3b deposition and formation of C5b-9 membrane attack complexes as well as factor H recruitment, depending on the presence of the choline binding protein PspC. Addition of EVs to human serum decreased opsonophagocytic killing of encapsulated pneumococci. Our data suggest that EVs may act in an immunomodulatory manner by allowing delivery of vesicle-associated proteins and other macromolecules into host cells. In addition, EVs expose targets for complement factors in serum, promoting pneumococcal evasion of humoral host defense.


          Streptococcus pneumoniae is a major contributor to morbidity and mortality worldwide, being the major cause of milder respiratory tract infections such as otitis and sinusitis and of severe infections such as community-acquired pneumonia, with or without septicemia, and meningitis. More knowledge is needed on how pneumococci interact with the host, deliver virulence factors, and activate immune defenses. Here we show that pneumococci form extracellular vesicles that emanate from the plasma membrane and contain virulence properties, including enrichment of pneumolysin. We found that pneumococcal vesicles can be internalized into epithelial and dendritic cells and bind complement proteins, thereby promoting pneumococcal evasion of complement-mediated opsonophagocytosis. They also induce pneumolysin-independent proinflammatory responses. We suggest that these vesicles can function as a mechanism for delivery of pneumococcal proteins and other immunomodulatory components into host cells and help pneumococci to avoid complement deposition and phagocytosis-mediated killing, thereby possibly contributing to the symptoms found in pneumococcal infections.

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          Most cited references 36

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          Prediction of lipoprotein signal peptides in Gram-negative bacteria.

          A method to predict lipoprotein signal peptides in Gram-negative Eubacteria, LipoP, has been developed. The hidden Markov model (HMM) was able to distinguish between lipoproteins (SPaseII-cleaved proteins), SPaseI-cleaved proteins, cytoplasmic proteins, and transmembrane proteins. This predictor was able to predict 96.8% of the lipoproteins correctly with only 0.3% false positives in a set of SPaseI-cleaved, cytoplasmic, and transmembrane proteins. The results obtained were significantly better than those of previously developed methods. Even though Gram-positive lipoprotein signal peptides differ from Gram-negatives, the HMM was able to identify 92.9% of the lipoproteins included in a Gram-positive test set. A genome search was carried out for 12 Gram-negative genomes and one Gram-positive genome. The results for Escherichia coli K12 were compared with new experimental data, and the predictions by the HMM agree well with the experimentally verified lipoproteins. A neural network-based predictor was developed for comparison, and it gave very similar results. LipoP is available as a Web server at
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            Complete genome sequence of a virulent isolate of Streptococcus pneumoniae.

            The 2,160,837-base pair genome sequence of an isolate of Streptococcus pneumoniae, a Gram-positive pathogen that causes pneumonia, bacteremia, meningitis, and otitis media, contains 2236 predicted coding regions; of these, 1440 (64%) were assigned a biological role. Approximately 5% of the genome is composed of insertion sequences that may contribute to genome rearrangements through uptake of foreign DNA. Extracellular enzyme systems for the metabolism of polysaccharides and hexosamines provide a substantial source of carbon and nitrogen for S. pneumoniae and also damage host tissues and facilitate colonization. A motif identified within the signal peptide of proteins is potentially involved in targeting these proteins to the cell surface of low-guanine/cytosine (GC) Gram-positive species. Several surface-exposed proteins that may serve as potential vaccine candidates were identified. Comparative genome hybridization with DNA arrays revealed strain differences in S. pneumoniae that could contribute to differences in virulence and antigenicity.
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              Through the wall: extracellular vesicles in Gram-positive bacteria, mycobacteria and fungi.

              Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are produced by all domains of life. In Gram-negative bacteria, EVs are produced by the pinching off of the outer membrane; however, how EVs escape the thick cell walls of Gram-positive bacteria, mycobacteria and fungi is still unknown. Nonetheless, EVs have been described in a variety of cell-walled organisms, including Staphylococcus aureus, Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Cryptococcus neoformans. These EVs contain varied cargo, including nucleic acids, toxins, lipoproteins and enzymes, and have important roles in microbial physiology and pathogenesis. In this Review, we describe the current status of vesiculogenesis research in thick-walled microorganisms and discuss the cargo and functions associated with EVs in these species.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                American Society for Microbiology (1752 N St., N.W., Washington, DC )
                10 April 2018
                Mar-Apr 2018
                : 9
                : 2
                [a ]Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology, Karolinska Institutet and Department of Clinical Microbiology, Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden
                [b ]Department of Molecular Biology and the Umeå Centre for Microbial Research (UCMR), Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden
                [c ]Singapore Centre on Environmental Life Sciences Engineering and Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine (LKC), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, Singapore
                GSK Vaccines
                Author notes
                Address correspondence to Birgitta Henriques-Normark, birgitta.henriques@ .

                This article is a direct contribution from a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology. Solicited external reviewers: Marco Rinaldo Oggioni, University of Leicester; Mariagrazia Pizza, GSK Vaccines.

                Copyright © 2018 Codemo et al.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

                supplementary-material: 10, Figures: 7, Tables: 0, Equations: 0, References: 36, Pages: 15, Words: 9969
                Funded by: The Swedish Research Council;
                Award Recipient :
                Funded by: Stockholm County Council;
                Award Recipient :
                Funded by: The Swedish Foundation for Strategic research (SSF);
                Award Recipient :
                Funded by: Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation;
                Award Recipient :
                Research Article
                Custom metadata
                March/April 2018


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