We have characterized the cytotoxic activity of the obligate intracellular bacterium Chlamydia psittaci, which resides within a membrane-bound vacuole during the 2-day infection cycle. We have established that infected epithelial cells and macrophages die through apoptosis, which is measurable within 1 day of infection and requires productive infection by the bacteria. Inhibition of host cell protein synthesis has no effect on cell death, but blocking bacterial entry or bacterial protein synthesis prevents apoptosis, implying that bacterial growth is required for death of the host cell. Apoptosis was confirmed through the use of electron microscopy, terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeling, gel agarose electrophoresis of fragmented DNA, and propidium-iodide labeling of host cell nuclei. Although infected cells died preferentially, both infected and uninfected cells became apoptotic, suggesting that the infected cells may secrete proapoptotic factors. Inhibition of either of two proapoptotic enzymes, caspase-1 or caspase-3, did not significantly affect Chlamydia-induced apoptosis. These results suggest that, as in the case of apoptosis due to Bax expression or oncogene dysregulation, which initiate the apoptotic program within the cell interior, the Chlamydia infection may trigger an apoptotic pathway that is independent of known caspases. As apoptotic cells secrete proinflammatory cytokines, Chlamydia-induced apoptosis may contribute to the inflammatory response of the host.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/david-ojcius/37/