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Microbes and infection

ChpK and MazF of the toxin-antitoxin modules are involved in the virulence of Leptospira interrogans during infection.


PMID 25461800

Abstract

Pathogenic Leptospira species are the causative agents of leptospirosis, a global zoonotic infectious disease. Toxin-antitoxin (TA) modules have been confirmed as stress-response elements that induce prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell-growth arrest or death, but their role in the virulence of Leptospira has not been reported. Here, we confirmed that all the tested leptospiral strains had the chpIK and mazEF TA modules with highly-conserved sequences. The transcription and expression of the chpI, chpK, mazE, and mazF genes of Leptospira interrogans strain Lai were significantly increased during infection of phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate-induced human THP-1 macrophages. The toxic ChpK and MazF but not the antitoxic ChpI and MazE proteins were detectable in the cytoplasmic fraction of leptospire-infected THP-1 cells, indicating the external secretion of ChpK and MazF during infection. Transfection of the chpK or mazF gene caused decreased viability and necrosis in THP-1 cells, whereas the chpI or mazE gene transfection did not affect the viability of THP-1 cells but blocked the ChpK or MazF-induced toxicity. Deletion of the chpK or mazF gene also decreased the late-apoptotic and/or necrotic ratios of THP-1 cells at the late stages of infection. The recombinant protein MazF (rMazF) cleaved the RNAs but not the DNAs from Leptospira and THP-1 cells, and this RNA cleavage was blocked by rMazE. However, the rChpK had no RNA or DNA-degrading activity. All these findings indicate that the ChpK and MazF proteins in TA modules are involved in the virulence of L. interrogans during infection.