• Authors: Howe, D., Shannon, J. G., Winfree, S., Dorward, D. W., Heinzen, R. A.
  • Year: 2010
  • Journal: Infect Immun 78 3465-74
  • Applications: in vitro / DNA / jetPEI-Macrophage
  • Cell type: THP-1
    Description: Human acute monocytic leukaemia cells
    Known as: THP1, THP 1


Coxiella burnetii infects mononuclear phagocytes, where it directs biogenesis of a vacuolar niche termed the parasitophorous vacuole (PV). Owing to its lumenal pH (approximately 5) and fusion with endolysosomal vesicles, the PV is considered phagolysosome-like. However, the degradative properties of the mature PV are unknown, and there are conflicting reports on the maturation state and growth permissiveness of PV harboring virulent phase I or avirulent phase II C. burnetii variants in human mononuclear phagocytes. Here, we employed infection of primary human monocyte-derived macrophages (HMDMs) and THP-1 cells as host cells to directly compare the PV maturation kinetics and pathogen growth in cells infected with the Nine Mile phase I variant (NMI) or phase II variant (NMII) of C. burnetii. In both cell types, phase variants replicated with similar kinetics, achieving roughly 2 to 3 log units of growth before they reached stationary phase. HMDMs infected by either phase variant secreted similar amounts of the proinflammatory cytokines interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor alpha. In infected THP-1 cells, equal percentages of NMI and NMII PVs decorate with the early endosomal marker Rab5, the late endosomal/lysosomal markers Rab7 and CD63, and the lysosomal marker cathepsin D at early (8 h) and late (72 h) time points postinfection (p.i.). Mature PVs (2 to 4 days p.i.) harboring NMI or NMII contained proteolytically active cathepsins and quickly degraded Escherichia coli. These data suggest that C. burnetii does not actively inhibit phagolysosome function as a survival mechanism. Instead, NMI and NMII resist degradation to replicate in indistinguishable digestive PVs that fully mature through the endolysosomal pathway.