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The autophagic response to Staphylococcus aureus provides an intracellular niche in neutrophils

Prajsnar, TK;Serba, JJ;Dekker, BM;Gibson, JF;Masud, S;Fleming, A;Johnston, SA;Renshaw, SA;Meijer, AH;

Staphylococcus aureus is a major human pathogen causing multiple pathologies, from cutaneous lesions to life-threatening sepsis. Although neutrophils contribute to immunity against S. aureus, multiple lines of evidence suggest that these phagocytes can provide an intracellular niche for staphylococcal dissemination. However, the mechanism of neutrophil subversion by intracellular S. aureus remains unknown. Targeting of intracellular pathogens by macroautophagy/autophagy is recognized as an important component of host innate immunity, but whether autophagy is beneficial or detrimental to S. aureus-infected hosts remains controversial. Here, using larval zebrafish, we showed that the autophagy marker Lc3 rapidly decorates S. aureus following engulfment by macrophages and neutrophils. Upon phagocytosis by neutrophils, Lc3-positive, non-acidified spacious phagosomes are formed. This response is dependent on phagocyte NADPH oxidase as both cyba/p22phox knockdown and diphenyleneiodonium (DPI) treatment inhibited Lc3 decoration of phagosomes. Importantly, NADPH oxidase inhibition diverted neutrophil S. aureus processing into tight acidified vesicles, which resulted in increased host resistance to the infection. Some intracellular bacteria within neutrophils were also tagged by Sqstm1/p62-GFP fusion protein and loss of Sqstm1 impaired host defense. Together, we have shown that intracellular handling of S. aureus by neutrophils is best explained by Lc3-associated phagocytosis (LAP), which appears to provide an intracellular niche for bacterial pathogenesis, while the selective autophagy receptor Sqstm1 is host-protective. The antagonistic roles of LAP and Sqstm1-mediated pathways in S. aureus-infected neutrophils may explain the conflicting reports relating to anti-staphylococcal autophagy and provide new insights for therapeutic strategies against antimicrobial-resistant Staphylococci.Abbreviations: ATG: autophagy related; CFU: colony-forming units; CMV: cytomegalovirus; Cyba/P22phox: cytochrome b-245, alpha polypeptide; DMSO: dimethyl sulfoxide; DPI: diphenyleneiodonium; EGFP: enhanced green fluorescent protein; GFP: green fluorescent protein; hpf: hours post-fertilization; hpi: hours post-infection; Irf8: interferon regulatory factor 8; LAP: LC3-associated phagocytosis; lyz: lysozyme; LWT: london wild type; Map1lc3/Lc3: microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3; NADPH oxidase: nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate oxidase; RFP: red fluorescent protein; ROS: reactive oxygen species; RT-PCR: reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction; Sqstm1/p62: sequestosome 1; Tg: transgenic; TSA: tyramide signal amplification.