Infection and immunity

Pharmacological activation of Rap1 antagonizes the endothelial barrier disruption induced by exotoxins ExoS and ExoT of Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

PMID 25690098


Most clinical strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a leading agent of nosocomial infections, are multiresistant to antibiotherapy. Because of the paucity of new available antibiotics, the investigation of strategies aimed at limiting the action of its major virulence factors has gained much interest. The type 3 secretion system of P. aeruginosa and its effectors are known to be major determinants of toxicity and are required for bacterial dissemination in the host. Bacterial transmigration across the vascular wall is considered to be an important step in the infectious process. Using human endothelial primary cells, we demonstrate that forskolin (FSK), a drug inducing cyclic AMP (cAMP) elevation in eukaryotic cells, strikingly reduced the cell retraction provoked by two type 3 toxins, ExoS and ExoT, found in the majority of clinical strains. Conversely, cytotoxicity of a strain carrying the type 3 effector ExoU was unaffected by FSK. In addition, FSK altered the capacity of two ExoS/ExoT strains to transmigrate across cell monolayers. In agreement with these findings, other drugs and a cytokine inducing the increase of cAMP intracellular levels have also protected cells from retraction. cAMP is an activator of both protein kinase A and EPAC, a GTPase exchange factor of Rap1. Using activators or inhibitors of either pathway, we show that the beneficial effect of FSK is exerted by the activation of the EPAC/Rap1 axis, suggesting that its protective effect is mediated by reinforcing cell-cell and cell-substrate adhesion.