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Journal Article

More Is Not Always Better-the Double-Headed Role of Fibronectin in Staphylococcus aureus Host Cell Invasion


Böttcher,  Ralph T.
Fässler, Reinhard / Molecular Medicine, Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Niemann, S., Minh-Thu, N., Eble, J. A., Chasan, A. I., Mrakovcic, M., Böttcher, R. T., et al. (2021). More Is Not Always Better-the Double-Headed Role of Fibronectin in Staphylococcus aureus Host Cell Invasion. mBio, 12(5): e01062-21. doi:10.1128/mBio.01062-21.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0009-CC33-8
While Staphylococcus aureus has classically been considered an extracellular pathogen, these bacteria are also capable of being taken up by host cells, including nonprofessional phagocytes such as endothelial cells, epithelial cells, or osteoblasts. The intracellular S. aureus lifestyle contributes to infection development. The predominant recognition and internalization pathway appears to be the binding of the bacteria via a fibronectin bridge to the alpha 5 beta 1-integrin on the host cell membrane, followed by phagocytosis. Although osteoblasts showed high expression of alpha 5 beta 1-integrin and fibronectin, and bacteria adhered to osteoblasts to a high proportion, here we demonstrate by internalization assays and immunofluorescence microscopy that S. aureus was less engulfed in osteoblasts than in epithelial cells. The addition of exogenous fibronectin during the infection of cells with S. aureus resulted in an increased uptake by epithelial cells but not by osteoblasts. This contrasts with the previous conception of the uptake mechanism, where high expression of integrin and fibronectin would promote the bacterial uptake into host cells. Extracellular fibronectin surrounding osteoblasts, but not epithelial cells, is organized in a fibrillary network. The inhibition of fibril formation, the short interfering RNA-mediated reduction of fibronectin expression, and the disruption of the fibronectin-fibril meshwork all resulted in a significant increase in S. aureus uptake by osteoblasts. Thus, the network of fibronectin fibrils appears to strongly reduce the uptake of S. aureus into a given host cell, indicating that the supramolecular structure of fibronectin determines the capacity of particular host cells to internalize the pathogen.
IMPORTANCE Traditionally, Staphylococcus aureus has been considered an extracellular pathogen. However, among other factors, the frequent failure of antimicrobial therapy and the ability of the pathogen to cause recurrent disease have established the concept of eukaryotic invasion of the pathogen, thereby evading the host's immune system. In the current model of host cell invasion, bacteria initially bind to alpha 5 beta 1 integrin on the host cell side via a fibronectin bridge, which eventually leads to phagocytosis of S. aureus by host cells. However, in this study, we demonstrate that not the crude amount but the supramolecular structure of fibronectin molecules deposited on the eukaryotic cell surface plays an essential role in bacterial uptake by host cells. Our findings explain the large differences of S. aureus uptake efficacy in different host cell types as well as in vivo differences between courses of bacterial infections and the localization of bacteria in different clinical settings.