Cystic fibrosis (CF) is the most common inherited lethal disease in Caucasians which results in multiorgan dysfunction. However, 85% of the deaths are due to pulmonary infections. Infection by Burkholderia cenocepacia (B. cepacia) is a particularly lethal threat to CF patients because it causes severe and persistent lung inflammation and is resistant to nearly all available antibiotics. In CFTR Delta F508 (Delta F508) mouse macrophages, B. cepacia persists in vacuoles that do not fuse with the lysosomes and mediates increased production of IL-1 beta. It is believed that intracellular bacterial survival contributes to the persistence of the bacterium. Here we show for the first time that in wild-type but not in Delta F508 macrophages, many B. cepacia reside in autophagosomes that fuse with lysosomes at later stages of infection. Accordingly, association and intracellular survival of B. cepacia are higher in CFTR-Delta F508 macrophages than in WT macrophages. An autophagosome is a compartment that engulfs nonfunctional organelles and parts of the cytoplasm then delivers them to the lysosome for degradation to produce nutrients during periods of starvation or stress. Furthermore, we show that B. cepacia downregulates autophagy genes in WT and Delta F508 macrophages. However, autophagy dysfunction is more pronounced in Delta F508 macrophages since they already have compromised autophagy activity. We demonstrate that the autophagy-stimulating agent, rapamycin markedly decreases B. cepacia infection in vitro by enhancing the clearance of B. cepacia via induced autophagy. In vivo, rapamycin decreases bacterial burden in the lungs of CF mice and drastically reduces signs of lung inflammation. Together, our studies reveal that if efficiently activated, autophagy can control B. cepacia infection and ameliorate the associated inflammation. Therefore, autophagy is a novel target for new drug development for CF patients to control B. cepacia infection and accompanying inflammation.
- Cell Biology
- Molecular Biology