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Keywords:

  • Brucella;
  • endocytic pathway;
  • live cell imaging;
  • pathogenesis;
  • phagosome maturation;
  • Rab7;
  • vacuole acidification

Upon entry into mammalian cells, the intracellular pathogen Brucella abortus resides within a membrane-bound compartment, the Brucella-containing vacuole (BCV), the maturation of which is controlled by the bacterium to generate a replicative organelle derived from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Prior to reaching the ER, Brucella is believed to ensure its intracellular survival by inhibiting fusion of the intermediate BCV with late endosomes and lysosomes, although such BCVs are acidic and accumulate the lysosomal-associated membrane protein (LAMP-1). Here, we have further examined the nature of intermediate BCVs using confocal microscopy and live cell imaging. We show that BCVs rapidly acquire several late endocytic markers, including the guanosine triphosphatase Rab7 and its effector Rab-interacting lysosomal protein (RILP), and are accessible to fluid-phase markers either delivered to the whole endocytic pathway or preloaded to lysosomes, indicating that BCVs interact with late endosomes and lysosomes. Consistently, intermediate BCVs are acidic and display proteolytic activity up to 12 h post-infection. Expression of dominant-negative Rab7 or overexpression of RILP significantly impaired the ability of bacteria to convert their vacuole into an ER-derived organelle and replicate, indicating that BCV maturation requires interactions with functional late endosomal/lysosomal compartments. In cells expressing dominant-negative Rab7[T22N], BCVs remained acidic, yet displayed decreased fusion with lysosomes. Taken together, these results demonstrate that BCVs traffic along the endocytic pathway and fuse with lysosomes, and such fusion events are required for further maturation of BCVs into an ER-derived replicative organelle.