Unravelling the biology of macrophage infection by gene expression profiling of intracellular Salmonella enterica

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Summary

For intracellular pathogens such as Salmonellae, Mycobacteriae and Brucellae, infection requires adaptation to the intracellular environment of the phagocytic cell. The transition from extracellular to intravacuolar environment has been expected to involve a global modulation of bacterial gene expression, but the precise events have been difficult to determine. We now report the complete transcriptional profile of intracellular Salmonella enterica sv. Typhimurium following macrophage infection. During replication in murine macrophage-like J774-A.1 cells, 919 of 4451 S. Typhimurium genes showed significant changes in transcription. The expression profile identified alterations in numerous virulence and SOS response genes and revealed unexpected findings concerning the biology of the Salmonella–macrophage interaction. We observed that intracellular Salmonella are not starved for amino acids or iron (Fe2+), and that the intravacuolar environment is low in phosphate and magnesium but high in potassium. S. Typhimurium appears to be using the Entner–Douderoff pathway to use gluconate and related sugars as a carbon source within macrophages. Almost half the in vivo-regulated genes were of unknown function, suggesting that intracellular growth involves novel macrophage-associated functions. This is the first report that identifies the whole set of in vivo-regulated genes for any bacterial pathogen during infection of mammalian cells.

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