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Changes in Astrocyte Shape Induced by Sublytic Concentrations of the Cholesterol-Dependent Cytolysin Pneumolysin Still Require Pore-Forming Capacity

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Author(s): Christina Förtsch | Sabrina Hupp | Jiangtao Ma | Timothy J. Mitchell | Elke Maier | Roland Benz | Asparouh I. Iliev

Journal: Toxins
ISSN 2072-6651

Volume: 3;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 43;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: pneumolysin | pore formation | cytoskeleton

ABSTRACT
Streptococcus pneumoniae is a common pathogen that causes various infections, such as sepsis and meningitis. A major pathogenic factor of S. pneumoniae is the cholesterol-dependent cytolysin, pneumolysin. It produces cell lysis at high concentrations and apoptosis at lower concentrations. We have shown that sublytic amounts of pneumolysin induce small GTPase-dependent actin cytoskeleton reorganization and microtubule stabilization in human neuroblastoma cells that are manifested by cell retraction and changes in cell shape. In this study, we utilized a live imaging approach to analyze the role of pneumolysin’s pore-forming capacity in the actin-dependent cell shape changes in primary astrocytes. After the initial challenge with the wild-type toxin, a permeabilized cell population was rapidly established within 20–40 minutes. After the initial rapid permeabilization, the size of the permeabilized population remained unchanged and reached a plateau. Thus, we analyzed the non-permeabilized (non-lytic) population, which demonstrated retraction and shape changes that were inhibited by actin depolymerization. Despite the non-lytic nature of pneumolysin treatment, the toxin’s lytic capacity remained critical for the initiation of cell shape changes. The non-lytic pneumolysin mutants W433F-pneumolysin and delta6-pneumolysin, which bind the cell membrane with affinities similar to that of the wild-type toxin, were not able to induce shape changes. The initiation of cell shape changes and cell retraction by the wild-type toxin were independent of calcium and sodium influx and membrane depolarization, which are known to occur following cellular challenge and suggested to result from the ion channel-like properties of the pneumolysin pores. Excluding the major pore-related phenomena as the initiation mechanism of cell shape changes, the existence of a more complex relationship between the pore-forming capacity of pneumolysin and the actin cytoskeleton reorganization is suggested.