The opportunistic pathogenEnterococcus faecalisresists phagosome acidification and autophagy to promote intracellular survival in macrophages

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While many strains of Enterococcus faecalis have been reported to be capable of surviving within macrophages for extended periods, the exact mechanisms involved are largely unknown. In this study, we found that after phagocytosis by macrophages, enterococci-containing vacuoles resist acidification, and E. faecalis is resistant to low pH. Ultrastructural examination of the enterococci-containing vacuole by transmission electron microscopy revealed a single membrane envelope, with no evidence of the classical double-membraned autophagosomes. Western blot analysis further confirmed that E. faecalis could trigger inhibition of the production of LC3-II during infection. By employing cells transfected with RFP-LC3 plasmid and infected with GFP-labelled E. faecalis, we also observed that E. faecalis was not delivered into autophagosomes during macrophage infection. While these observations indicated no role for autophagy in elimination of intracellular E. faecalis, enhanced production of reactive oxygen species and nitric oxide were keys to this process. Stimulation of autophagy suppressed the intracellular survival of E. faecalis in macrophages in vitro and decreased the burden of E. faecalis in vivo. In summary, the results from this study offer new insights into the interaction of E. faecalis with host cells and may provide a new approach to treatment of enterococcal infections.

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