Professional phagocytes play a critical role in anti-microbial defense. Uptake of microbes by phagocytosis results in the formation of a dynamic vesicular compartment, termed the phagolysosome. The phagolysosome physically and functionally defines a critical separation of the microbe from the host cell, allowing the host to target degradative anti-microbial mechanisms to this confined space. We find that bacterial infection triggers the unfolded protein response (UPR), a cellular program associated with ER stress and innate immune function. Activation of the UPR increases the capacity of the cell to degrade proteins, but the mechanisms responsible for this degradation are incompletely understood. Our preliminary studies suggest that UPR activation during bacterial infection results in increased association of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) with the degradative lysosomal compartment and bacterial killing. Inhibition of specific UPR regulators results in decreased association with lysosomes and decreased MRSA killing. The central hypothesis of this proposal is that activation of the UPR in phagocytes results in increased trafficking and degradative capacity of the phagolysosomal network, leading to enhanced degradative, and thus anti-microbial, function. To test this hypothesis, we will (1) measure mobilization of the lysosomal network using physical and functional markers upon activation of the UPR;(2) define the role of the UPR sensors, Ire1, ATF6 and PERK in regulating specific aspects of lysosomal trafficking and function in response to innate immune signals during infection. Regulation of the degradative capacity of the cell by the UPR is a fundamental strategy by which cells can respond to perturbations in the production or secretion of proteins. Our studies now highlight a novel connection between UPR-mediated degradation and anti-microbial function, and will define key druggable targets that shape the macrophage anti-microbial arsenal for development of anti-infective strategies.
Virulent pathogens may evade host-antimicrobial defenses and are a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Our studies have revealed a fundamental cellular stress response that broadly enhances host defense, increasing killing of bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus by immune cells. These findings highlight a new mechanism for anti-microbial defense that may provide potential targets for development of anti-infective therapies.
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