Discordant results obtained with Francisella tularensis during in vitro and in vivo immunological studies are attributable to compromised bacterial structural integrity.

PloS one

PubMedID: 23554897

Singh A, Rahman T, Malik M, Hickey AJ, Leifer CA, Hazlett KR, Sellati TJ. Discordant results obtained with Francisella tularensis during in vitro and in vivo immunological studies are attributable to compromised bacterial structural integrity. PLoS ONE. 2013;8(3):e58513.
Francisella tularensis (Ft) is a highly infectious intracellular pathogen and the causative agent of tularemia. Because Ft can be dispersed via small droplet-aerosols and has a very low infectious dose it is characterized as a category A Select Agent of biological warfare. Respiratory infection with the attenuated Live Vaccine Strain (LVS) and the highly virulent SchuS4 strain of Ft engenders intense peribronchiolar and perivascular inflammation, but fails to elicit select pro-inflammatory mediators (e.g., TNF, IL-1ß, IL-6, IL-12, and IFN-?) within the first ~72 h. This in vivo finding is discordant with the principally TH1-oriented response to Ft frequently observed in cell-based studies wherein the aforementioned cytokines are produced. An often overlooked confounding factor in the interpretation of experimental results is the influence of environmental cues on the bacterium's capacity to elicit certain host responses. Herein, we reveal that adaptation of Ft to its mammalian host imparts an inability to elicit select pro-inflammatory mediators throughout the course of infection. Furthermore, in vitro findings that non-host adapted Ft elicits such a response from host cells reflect aberrant recognition of the DNA of structurally-compromised bacteria by AIM2-dependent and -independent host cell cytosolic DNA sensors. Growth of Ft in Muller-Hinton Broth or on Muller-Hinton-based chocolate agar plates or genetic mutation of Ft was found to compromise the structural integrity of the bacterium thus rendering it capable of aberrantly eliciting pro-inflammatory mediators (e.g., TNF, IL-1ß, IL-6, IL-12, and IFN-?). Our studies highlight the profound impact of different growth conditions on host cell response to infection and demonstrate that not all in vitro-derived findings may be relevant to tularemia pathogenesis in the mammalian host. Rational development of a vaccine and immunotherapeutics can only proceed from a foundation of knowledge based upon in vitro findings that recapitulate those observed during natural infection.