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Nature communications

Chlamydia infection depends on a functional MDM2-p53 axis.


PMID 25392082

Abstract

Chlamydia, a major human bacterial pathogen, assumes effective strategies to protect infected cells against death-inducing stimuli, thereby ensuring completion of its developmental cycle. Paired with its capacity to cause extensive host DNA damage, this poses a potential risk of malignant transformation, consistent with circumstantial epidemiological evidence. Here we reveal a dramatic depletion of p53, a tumor suppressor deregulated in many cancers, during Chlamydia infection. Using biochemical approaches and live imaging of individual cells, we demonstrate that p53 diminution requires phosphorylation of Murine Double Minute 2 (MDM2; a ubiquitin ligase) and subsequent interaction of phospho-MDM2 with p53 before induced proteasomal degradation. Strikingly, inhibition of the p53-MDM2 interaction is sufficient to disrupt intracellular development of Chlamydia and interferes with the pathogen's anti-apoptotic effect on host cells. This highlights the dependency of the pathogen on a functional MDM2-p53 axis and lends support to a potentially pro-carcinogenic effect of chlamydial infection.

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