• Immune-responsive gene 1 protein links metabolism to immunity by catalyzing itaconic acid production.

      Michelucci, Alessandro; Cordes, Thekla; Ghelfi, Jenny; Pailot, Arnaud; Reiling, Norbert; Goldmann, Oliver; Binz, Tina; Wegner, André; Tallam, Aravind; Rausell, Antonio; et al. (2013-05-07)
      Immunoresponsive gene 1 (Irg1) is highly expressed in mammalian macrophages during inflammation, but its biological function has not yet been elucidated. Here, we identify Irg1 as the gene coding for an enzyme producing itaconic acid (also known as methylenesuccinic acid) through the decarboxylation of cis-aconitate, a tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediate. Using a gain-and-loss-of-function approach in both mouse and human immune cells, we found Irg1 expression levels correlating with the amounts of itaconic acid, a metabolite previously proposed to have an antimicrobial effect. We purified IRG1 protein and identified its cis-aconitate decarboxylating activity in an enzymatic assay. Itaconic acid is an organic compound that inhibits isocitrate lyase, the key enzyme of the glyoxylate shunt, a pathway essential for bacterial growth under specific conditions. Here we show that itaconic acid inhibits the growth of bacteria expressing isocitrate lyase, such as Salmonella enterica and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Furthermore, Irg1 gene silencing in macrophages resulted in significantly decreased intracellular itaconic acid levels as well as significantly reduced antimicrobial activity during bacterial infections. Taken together, our results demonstrate that IRG1 links cellular metabolism with immune defense by catalyzing itaconic acid production.
    • Mast cells initiate early anti-Listeria host defences.

      Gekara, Nelson O; Weiss, Siegfried; Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Department of Molecular Immunology, Inhoffenstrasse 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. Nelson.Gekara@helmholtz-hzi.de (2008-01)
      The Gram-positive bacterium Listeria monocytogenes (L. m.) is the aetiological agent of listeriosis. The early phase listeriosis is characterized by strong innate host responses that play a major role in bacterial clearance. This is emphasized by the fact that mice deficient in T and B cells have a remarkable ability to control infection. Mast cells, among the principal effectors of innate immunity, have largely been studied in the context of hyper-reactive conditions such as allergy and autoimmune diseases. In the present study, we evaluated the significance of mast cells during the early phase of listeriosis. Compared with controls, mice depleted of mast cells showed hundred-fold higher bacterial burden in spleen and liver and were significantly impaired in neutrophil mobilization. Although L. m. interacts with and triggers mast cell degranulation, bacteria were hardly found within such cells. Mainly neutrophils and macrophages phagozytosed L. m. Thus, mast cells control infection not via direct bacterial uptake, but by initiating neutrophils influx to the site of infection. We show that this is initiated by pre-synthesized TNF-alpha, rapidly secreted by mast cell upon activation by L. m. We also show that upon recruitment, neutrophils also become activated and additionally secrete TNF-alpha thus amplifying the anti-L. m. inflammatory response.
    • Visualizing the beta interferon response in mice during infection with influenza A viruses expressing or lacking nonstructural protein 1.

      Kallfass, Carsten; Lienenklaus, Stefan; Weiss, Siegfried; Staeheli, Peter; Department of Virology, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany. (2013-06)
      The innate host defense against influenza virus is largely dependent on the type I interferon (IFN) system. However, surprisingly little is known about the cellular source of IFN in the infected lung. To clarify this question, we employed a reporter mouse that contains the firefly luciferase gene in place of the IFN-β-coding region. IFN-β-producing cells were identified either by simultaneous immunostaining of lungs for luciferase and cellular markers or by generating conditional reporter mice that express luciferase exclusively in defined cell types. Two different strains of influenza A virus were employed that either do or do not code for nonstructural protein 1 (NS1), which strongly suppresses innate immune responses of infected cells. We found that epithelial cells and lung macrophages, which represent the prime host cells for influenza viruses, showed vigorous IFN-β responses which, however, were severely reduced and delayed if the infecting virus was able to produce NS1. Interestingly, CD11c(+) cell populations that were either expressing or lacking macrophage markers produced the bulk of IFN-β at 48 h after infection with wild-type influenza A virus. Our results demonstrate that the virus-encoded IFN-antagonistic factor NS1 disarms specifically epithelial cells and lung macrophages, which otherwise would serve as main mediators of the early response against infection by influenza virus.