Elucidating the in vivo targets of Photorhabdus toxins in real-time using Drosophila embryos

Isabella Vlisidou, Nicholas Waterfield, William Wood

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5 Citations (SciVal)


The outcome of any bacterial infection, whether it is clearance of the infecting pathogen, establishment of a persistent infection, or even death of the host, is as dependent on the host as on the pathogen (Finlay and Falkow 1989). To infect a susceptible host bacterial pathogens express virulence factors, which alter host cell physiology and allow the pathogen to establish a nutrient-rich niche for growth and avoid clearance by the host immune response. However survival within the host often results in tissue damage, which to some cases accounts for the disease-specific pathology. For many bacterial pathogens the principal determinants of virulence and elicitors of host tissue damage are soluble exotoxins, which allow bacteria to penetrate into deeper tissue or pass through a host epithelial or endothelial barrier. Therefore, exploring the complex interplay between host tissue and bacterial toxins can help us to understand infectious disease and define the contributions of the host immune system to bacterial virulence. In this chapter, we describe a new model, the Drosophila embryo, for addressing a fundamental issue in bacterial pathogenesis, the elucidation of the in vivo targets of bacterial toxins and the monitoring of the first moments of the infection process in real-time. To develop this model, we used the insect and emerging human pathogen Photorhabdus asymbiotica and more specifically we characterised the initial cross-talk between the secreted cytotoxin Mcf1 and the embryonic hemocytes. Mcf1 is a potent cytotoxin which has been detected in all Photorhabdus strains isolated so far, which can rapidly kill insects upon injection. Despite several in vitro tissue culture studies, the biology of Mcf1 in vivo is not well understood. Furthermore, despite the identification of many Photorhabdus toxins using recombinant expression in E. coli (Waterfield et al. 2008), very few studies address the molecular mechanism of action of these toxins in relation to specific immune responses in vivo in the insect model.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-57
Number of pages9
JournalAdvances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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