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Summary

Selective autophagy functions to specifically degrade cellular cargo tagged by ubiquitination, including bacteria. Strains of the Burkholderia cepacia complex (Bcc) are opportunistic pathogens that cause life-threatening infections in patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) and chronic granulomatous disease (CGD). While there is evidence that defective macrophage autophagy in a mouse model of CF can influence B. cenocepacia susceptibility, there have been no comprehensive studies on how this bacterium is sensed and targeted by the host autophagy response in human macrophages. Here, we describe the intracellular life cycle of B. cenocepacia J2315 and its interaction with the autophagy pathway in human cells. Electron and confocal microscopy analyses demonstrate that the invading bacteria interact transiently with the endocytic pathway before escaping to the cytosol. This escape triggers theselective autophagy pathway, and the recruitment of ubiquitin, the ubiquitin-binding adaptors p62 and NDP52 and the autophagosome membrane-associated protein LC3B, to the bacterial vicinity. However, despite recruitment of these key autophagy pathway effectors, B. cenocepacia blocks autophagosome completion and replicates in the host cytosol. We find that a pre-infection increase in cellular autophagy flux can significantly inhibit B. cenocepacia replication and that lower autophagy flux in macrophages from immunocompromised CGD patients could contribute to increased B. cenocepacia susceptibility, identifying autophagy manipulation as a potential therapeutic approach to reduce bacterial burden in B. cenocepacia infections.