The Journal of biological chemistry

pH-dependent internalization of muramyl peptides from early endosomes enables Nod1 and Nod2 signaling.

PMID 19570976


Nod1 and Nod2 are members of the Nod-like receptor family that detect intracellular bacterial peptidoglycan-derived muramyl peptides. The biological effects of muramyl peptides have been described for over three decades, but the mechanism underlying their internalization to the cytosol remains unclear. Using the human epithelial cell line HEK293T as a model system, we demonstrate here that Nod1-activating ligands entered cells through endocytosis, most likely by the clathrin-coated pit pathway, as internalization was dynamin-dependent but not inhibited by methyl-beta-cyclodextrin. In the endocytic pathway, the cytosolic internalization of Nod1 ligands was pH-dependent, occurred prior to the acidification mediated by the vacuolar ATPase, and was optimal at pH ranging from 5.5 to 6. Similarly, the Nod2 ligand MDP was internalized into host cytosol through a similar pathway with optimal pH for internalization ranging from 5.5 to 6.5. Moreover, Nod1-activating muramyl peptides likely required processing by endosomal enzymes, prior to transport into the cytosol, suggesting the existence of a sterically gated endosomal transporter for Nod1 ligands. In support for this, we identified a role for SLC15A4, an oligopeptide transporter expressed in early endosomes, in Nod1-dependent NF-kappaB signaling. Interestingly, SLC15A4 expression was also up-regulated in colonic biopsies from patients with inflammatory bowel disease, a disorder associated with mutations in Nod1 and Nod2. Together, our results shed light on the mechanisms by which muramyl peptides get access to the host cytosol, where they are detected by Nod1 and Nod2, and might have implications for the understanding of human diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease.