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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal PLOS Pathogens
Volume (Issue) 17(1)
Page(s) e1008548 - e1008548
Title of proceedings PLOS Pathogens
DOI 10.1371/journal.ppat.1008548

Open Access

URL http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008548
Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)

Abstract

Bartonellae are Gram-negative facultative-intracellular pathogens that use a type-IV-secretion system (T4SS) to translocate a cocktail of Bartonella effector proteins (Beps) into host cells to modulate diverse cellular functions. BepC was initially reported to act in concert with BepF in triggering major actin cytoskeletal rearrangements that result in the internalization of a large bacterial aggregate by the so-called ‘invasome’. Later, infection studies with bepC deletion mutants and ectopic expression of BepC have implicated this effector in triggering an actin-dependent cell contractility phenotype characterized by fragmentation of migrating cells due to deficient rear detachment at the trailing edge, and BepE was shown to counterbalance this remarkable phenotype. However, the molecular mechanism of how BepC triggers cytoskeletal changes and the host factors involved remained elusive. Using infection assays, we show here that T4SS-mediated transfer of BepC is sufficient to trigger stress fiber formation in non-migrating epithelial cells and additionally cell fragmentation in migrating endothelial cells. Interactomic analysis revealed binding of BepC to a complex of the Rho guanine nucleotide exchange factor GEF-H1 and the serine/threonine-protein kinase MRCKα. Knock-out cell lines revealed that only GEF-H1 is required for mediating BepC-triggered stress fiber formation and inhibitor studies implicated activation of the RhoA/ROCK pathway downstream of GEF-H1. Ectopic co-expression of tagged versions of GEF-H1 and BepC truncations revealed that the C-terminal ‘ B ep i ntracellular d elivery’ (BID) domain facilitated anchorage of BepC to the plasma membrane, whereas the N-terminal ‘ f ilamentation i nduced by c AMP’ (FIC) domain facilitated binding of GEF-H1. While FIC domains typically mediate post-translational modifications, most prominently AMPylation, a mutant with quadruple amino acid exchanges in the putative active site indicated that the BepC FIC domain acts in a non-catalytic manner to activate GEF-H1. Our data support a model in which BepC activates the RhoA/ROCK pathway by re-localization of GEF-H1 from microtubules to the plasma membrane.
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