03 October 2019
Shigella spp. are bacterial pathogens that invade the human colonic mucosa using a type III secretion apparatus (T3SA), a proteinaceous device activated upon contact with host cells. Active T3SAs translocate proteins that carve the intracellular niche of Shigella spp. Nevertheless, the activation state of the T3SA has not been addressed in vivo. Here, we used a green fluorescent protein transcription-based secretion activity reporter (TSAR) to provide a spatio-temporal description of S. flexneri T3SAs activity in the colon of Guinea pigs. First, we observed that early mucus release is triggered in the vicinity of luminal bacteria with inactive T3SA. Subsequent mucosal invasion showed bacteria with active T3SA associated with the brush border, eventually penetrating into epithelial cells. From 2 to 8 h post-challenge, the infection foci expanded, and these intracellular bacteria displayed homogeneously high-secreting activity, while extracellular foci within the lamina propria featured bacteria with low secretion activity. We also found evidence that within lamina propria macrophages, bacteria reside in vacuoles instead of accessing the cytosol. Finally, bacteria were cleared from tissues between 8 and 24 h post-challenge, highlighting the hit-and-run colonization strategy of Shigella. This study demonstrates how genetically encoded reporters can contribute to deciphering pathogenesis in vivo.
We mapped Shigella flexneri cells and assessed the activity of their type III secretion apparatus in the large intestine of Guinea pigs.