Immune surveillance by phagocytic cells plays a vital role in controlling infections by internalize bacteria and kill them by a process of enzymatic degradation. Degradation also releases bacterial molecules that activate innate immune receptors and antigens for presentation to the adaptive immune system ultimately orchestrating the overall immune response to a microbe. The cell wall of gram-positive bacteria, like Staphylococcus aureus, is predominantly composed peptidoglycan, an amino acid-crosslinked sugar polymer. We recently demonstrated that the monomeric sugar, n-acetylglucosamine, released during peptidoglycan degradation, is inflammatory. N-acetylglucosamine interacts with the glycolytic enzyme hexokinase, inhibiting its function. As a consequence, hexokinase?s interaction with the mitochondrial outer membrane is disrupted and this dissociation initiates a signaling cascade responsible for assembly of the multi-protein NLRP3 inflammasome complex necessary for activation of the protease caspase-1. Caspase- 1 is responsible for the cleavage and activation of several key inflammatory cytokines, including IL-1b and IL-18, important for inflammatory cell recruitment and activation. Our results suggest that phagocytic cells have adapted their normal glycolytic regulation to sense abnormally high levels of a bacterial sugar as danger. To evade immune surveillance, bacteria modify their peptidoglycan layer to resist degradation by phagocytic cells and limiting the availability of innate inflammatory signals, including n-acetylglucosamine. The amount of n-acetylglucosamine impacting hexokinase function and glycolysis will depend on transport across the phagosomal membrane into the cytosol. Preliminary evidence suggests that the amount of IL- 1b produced by phagocytic cells, specifically in response to peptidoglycan, is dependent on the function of the GLUT family of sugar transports. In addition, we have generated a mouse model deficient for one of the three hexokinases expressed by phagocytic cells and observed differential impacts on glycolysis and inflammatory responses. This proposal aims to define the roles of the three hexokinases expressed by phagocytic cell in the inflammatory response to gram-positive bacteria peptidoglycan, as well characterize the transport and impact of peptidoglycan-derived n-acetylglucosamine on the metabolism and inflammatory responses of phagocytic cells. We hypothesize that the overall degree of inflammation induced by gram-positive bacteria is impacted by the amount and availability of n-acetylglucosamine generating during bacterial peptidoglycan degradation due in part to n-acetylglucosamine?s inhibition of glycolytic metabolism.

Public Health Relevance

The earliest cells involved in the immune response to a bacterial infection are the phagocytic cells responsible for internalize, kill bacteria and generate inflammatory signals that coordinate the subsequent immune responses. Recently, we determined that phagocytic cells respond to a sugar that is abundant in the bacterial cell wall and is released when bacteria are degraded and killed. This proposal aims to determine how this bacterial-derived sugar alters the metabolism of phagocytic immune cells and controls the level of inflammation that develops during a bacterial infection in order to better design therapeutics to treat bacterial infections.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Research Project (R01)
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Innate Immunity and Inflammation Study Section (III)
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Vazquez-Maldonado, Nancy
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Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
Los Angeles
United States
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