Inclusion biogenesis and reactivation of persistent Chlamydia trachomatis requires host cell sphingolipid biosynthesis

D. Kesley Robertson, Ling Gu, Regina K. Rowe, Wandy L. Beatty

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Chlamydiae are obligate intracellular pathogens that must coordinate the acquisition of host cell-derived biosynthetic constituents essential for bacterial survival. Purified chlamydiae contain several lipids that are typically found in eukaryotes, implying the translocation of host cell lipids to the chlamydial vacuole. Acquisition and incorporation of sphingomyelin occurs subsequent to transport from Golgi-derived exocytic vesicles, with possible intermediate transport through endosomal multivesicular bodies. Eukaryotic host cell-derived sphingomyelin is essential for intracellular growth of Chlamydia trachomatis, but the precise role of this lipid in development has not been delineated. The present study identifies specific phenotypic effects on inclusion membrane biogenesis and stability consequent to conditions of sphingomyelin deficiency. Culturing infected cells in the presence of inhibitors of serine palmitoyltransferase, the first enzyme in the biosynthetic pathway of host cell sphingomyelin, resulted in loss of inclusion membrane integrity with subsequent disruption in normal chlamydial inclusion development. Surprisingly, this was accompanied by premature redifferentiation to and release of infectious elementary bodies. Homotypic fusion of inclusions was also disrupted under conditions of sphingolipid deficiency. In addition, host cell sphingomyelin synthesis was essential for inclusion membrane stability and expansion that is vital to reactivation of persistent chlamydial infection. The present study implicates both the Golgi apparatus and multivesicular bodies as key sources of host-derived lipids, with multivesicular bodies being essential for normal inclusion development and reactivation of persistent C. trachomatis infection.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1000664
JournalPLoS pathogens
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2009


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