Infection and immunity

Identification of novel Coxiella burnetii Icm/Dot effectors and genetic analysis of their involvement in modulating a mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway.

PMID 24958706


Coxiella burnetii, the causative agent of Q fever, is a human intracellular pathogen that utilizes the Icm/Dot type IVB secretion system to translocate effector proteins into host cells. To identify novel C. burnetii effectors, we applied a machine-learning approach to predict C. burnetii effectors, and examination of 20 such proteins resulted in the identification of 13 novel effectors. To determine whether these effectors, as well as several previously identified effectors, modulate conserved eukaryotic pathways, they were expressed in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The effects on yeast growth were examined under regular growth conditions and in the presence of caffeine, a known modulator of the yeast cell wall integrity (CWI) mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase pathway. In the presence of caffeine, expression of the effectors CBU0885 and CBU1676 caused an enhanced inhibition of yeast growth, and the growth inhibition of CBU0388 was suppressed. Furthermore, analysis of synthetic lethality effects and examination of the activity of the CWI MAP kinase transcription factor Rlm1 indicated that CBU0388 enhances the activation of this MAP kinase pathway in yeast, while CBU0885 and CBU1676 abolish this activation. Additionally, coexpression of CBU1676 and CBU0388 resulted in mutual suppression of their inhibition of yeast growth. These results strongly indicate that these three effectors modulate the CWI MAP kinase pathway in yeast. Moreover, both CBU1676 and CBU0885 were found to contain a conserved haloacid dehalogenase (HAD) domain, which was found to be required for their activity. Collectively, our results demonstrate that MAP kinase pathways are most likely targeted by C. burnetii Icm/Dot effectors.