Pseudomonas aeruginosa LasB protease impairs innate immunity in mice and humans by targeting a lung epithelial cystic fibrosis transmembrane regulator–IL-6–antimicrobial–repair pathway

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Abstract

Background

Pseudomonas aeruginosa lung infections are a huge problem in ventilator-associated pneumonia, cystic fibrosis (CF) and in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exacerbations. This bacterium secretes virulence factors that may subvert host innate immunity.

Objective

We evaluated the effect of P. aeruginosa elastase LasB, an important virulence factor secreted by the type II secretion system, on ion transport, innate immune responses and epithelial repair, both in vitro and in vivo.

Methods

Wild-type (WT) or cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR)-mutated epithelial cells (cell lines and primary cells from patients) were treated with WT or ΔLasB pseudomonas aeruginosa O1 (PAO1) secretomes. The effect of LasB and PAO1 infection was also assessed in vivo in murine models.

Results

We showed that LasB was the most abundant protein in WT PAO1 secretomes and that it decreased epithelial CFTR expression and activity. In airway epithelial cell lines and primary bronchial epithelial cells, LasB degraded the immune mediators interleukin (IL)-6 and trappin-2, an important epithelial-derived antimicrobial molecule. We further showed that an IL-6/STAT3 signalling pathway was downregulated by LasB, resulting in inhibition of epithelial cell repair. In mice, intranasally instillated LasB induced significant weight loss, inflammation, injury and death. By contrast, we showed that overexpression of IL-6 and trappin-2 protected mice against WT-PAO1-induced death, by upregulating IL-17/IL-22 antimicrobial and repair pathways.

Conclusions

Our data demonstrate that PAO1 LasB is a major P. aeruginosa secreted factor that modulates ion transport, immune response and tissue repair. Targeting this virulence factor or upregulating protective factors such as IL-6 or antimicrobial molecules such as trappin-2 could be beneficial in P. aeruginosa-infected individuals.

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