Interaction between autophagic vesicles and the Coxiella-containing vacuole requires CLTC (clathrin heavy chain).

PMID 29973118


Coxiella burnetii is an intracellular bacterial pathogen which causes Q fever, a human infection with the ability to cause chronic disease with potentially life-threatening outcomes. In humans, Coxiella infects alveolar macrophages where it replicates to high numbers in a unique, pathogen-directed lysosome-derived vacuole. This compartment, termed the Coxiella-containing vacuole (CCV), has a low internal pH and contains markers both of lysosomes and autophagosomes. The CCV membrane is also enriched with CLTC (clathrin heavy chain) and this contributes to the success of the CCV. Here, we describe a role for CLTC, a scaffolding protein of clathrin-coated vesicles, in facilitating the fusion of autophagosomes with the CCV. During gene silencing of CLTC, CCVs are unable to fuse with each other, a phenotype also seen when silencing genes involved in macroautophagy/autophagy. MAP1LC3B/LC3B, which is normally observed inside the CCV, is excluded from CCVs in the absence of CLTC. Additionally, this study demonstrates that autophagosome fusion contributes to CCV size as cell starvation and subsequent autophagy induction leads to further CCV expansion. This is CLTC dependent, as the absence of CLTC renders autophagosomes no longer able to contribute to the expansion of the CCV. This investigation provides a functional link between CLTC and autophagy in the context of Coxiella infection and highlights the CCV as an important tool to explore the interactions between these vesicular trafficking pathways.