Pseudomonas aeruginosa cytotoxin ExoU is injected into phagocytic cells during acute pneumonia

Maureen H. Diaz, Alan R. Hauser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


ExoU, a cytotoxin translocated into host cells via the type III secretion system of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, is associated with increased mortality and disease severity. We previously showed that impairment of recruited phagocytic cells allowed survival of ExoU-secreting P. aeruginosa in the lung. Here we analyzed types of cells injected with ExoU in vivo using translational fusions of ExoU with a β-lactamase reporter (ExoU-Bla). Cells injected with ExoU-Bla were detectable in vitro but not in vivo, presumably due to the rapid cytotoxicity induced by the toxin. Therefore, we used a noncytotoxic ExoU variant, designated ExoU(S142A)-Bla, to analyze injection in vivo. We determined that phagocytic cells in the lung were frequently injected with ExoU(S142A). Early during infection, resident macrophages constituted the majority of cells into which ExoU was injected, but neutrophils and monocytes became the predominant types of cells into which ExoU was injected upon recruitment into the lung. We observed a modest preference for injection into neutrophils over injection into other cell types, but in general the repertoire of injected immune cells reflected the relative abundance of these cells in the lung. Our results indicate that phagocytic cells in the lung are injected with ExoU and support the hypothesis that ExoU-mediated impairment of phagocytes has a role in the pathogenesis of pneumonia caused by P. aeruginosa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1447-1456
Number of pages10
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology


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