Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a Gram-negative pathogen commonly associated with nosocomial infections such as hospital-acquired pneumonia. It uses a type III secretion system to deliver effector proteins directly into the cytosol of host cells. Type III secretion in P. aeruginosa has been linked to severe disease and worse clinical outcomes in animal and human studies. The majority of P. aeruginosa strains secrete ExoS, a bifunctional toxin with GTPase-activating protein and ADPribosyltransferase activities. Numerous in vitro studies have investigated the targets and cellular effects of ExoS, linking both its enzymatic activities with inhibition of bacterial internalization. However, little is known about how this toxin facilitates the progression of infection in vivo. In this study, we used a mouse model to investigate the role of ExoS in inhibiting phagocytosis during pneumonia. We first confirmed previous findings that the ADP-ribosyltransferase activity of ExoS, but not the GTPaseactivating protein activity, was responsible for bacterial persistence and decreased host survival in this model. We then used two distinct assays to demonstrate that ExoS inhibited phagocytosis during pneumonia. In contrast to the findings of several in vitro studies, this in vivo inhibition was also dependent on the ADP-ribosyltransferase activity, but not the GTPase-activating protein activity, of ExoS. These results demonstrate for the first time the antiphagocytic function of ExoS in the context of an actual infection and indicate that blocking the ADP-ribosyltransferase activity of ExoS may have potential therapeutic benefit.
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