Bouillot S, Munro P, Gallet B, Reboud E, Cretin F, Golovkine G, Schoehn G, Attrée I, Lemichez E, Huber P
Sci Rep 2017 May;7(1):2120
Exolysin (ExlA) is a recently-identified pore-forming toxin secreted by a subset of Pseudomonas aeruginosa strains identified worldwide and devoid of Type III secretion system (T3SS), a major virulence factor. Here, we characterized at the ultrastructural level the lesions caused by an ExlA-secreting strain, CLJ1, in mouse infected lungs. CLJ1 induced necrotic lesions in pneumocytes and endothelial cells, resulting in alveolo-vascular barrier breakdown. Ectopic expression of ExlA in an exlA-negative strain induced similar tissue injuries. In addition, ExlA conferred on bacteria the capacity to proliferate in lungs and to disseminate in secondary organs, similar to bacteria possessing a functional T3SS. CLJ1 did not promote a strong neutrophil infiltration in the alveoli, owing to the weak pro-inflammatory cytokine reaction engendered by the strain. However, CLJ1 was rapidly eliminated from the blood in a bacteremia model, suggesting that it can be promptly phagocytosed by immune cells. Together, our study ascribes to ExlA-secreting bacteria the capacity to proliferate in the lung and to damage pulmonary tissues, thereby promoting metastatic infections, in absence of substantial immune response exacerbation.