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Title: Molecular basis of NAIP/NLRC4 inflammasome activation by flagellin
Author: Bittante, Alessandra
ISNI:       0000 0004 7229 7595
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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The overall aim of this project was to determine the molecular mechanisms by which the flagellin gene from Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium (S. Typhimurium) activates the NAIP/NLRC4 inflammasome and its contribution to the host protective immune response against salmonellosis. Inflammasomes are multi-protein complexes formed in response to the activation of pattern recognition receptors (PRRs). The NOD-like receptor (NLR)-family of inflammasome complexes are formed from the cytosolic NLR receptors, ASC adaptor and caspase-1 in response to pathogen- associated molecules or danger-associated signals. The NAIP/NLRC4 inflammasome is activated by the S. enterica flagellar filament protein (FliC), the SPI-1 type III secretion system needle (PrgI) and inner rod proteins (PrgJ). Recognition of these bacterial ligands by the NAIP receptors allows oligomerisation with NLRC4 and subsequent recruitment of caspase-1. Caspase-1 mediates pyroptosis, while recruitment of ASC is also required for cleavage of pro-IL-1β and pro-IL-18 to their active forms by caspase-1. Differential recognition of the flagellar filament proteins (flagellin) by the NAIP/NLRC4 inflammasome forms an important part of my thesis. Here, I have looked at the molecular mechanisms and immunological consequences of the differential recognition of flagellin by the NAIP/NLRC4 inflammasome using S. Typhimurium SL1344 and the non-pathogenic E. coli strain K12-MG1655. An important part of my work was to try and determine which regions of fliC are required for NAIP/NLRC4 inflammasome activation and whether they can be mutated while preserving motility. To do this a panel of ten strains expressing chimeric fliC genes were created and characterised in macrophage infection experiments and bacterial motility assays. My results confirm the C-terminus of FliC is critical for both inflammasome activation and motility in agreement with published reports. To further investigate this differential recognition by the NAIP/NLRC4 inflammasome I modified S. Typhimurium strain of moderate virulence (M525P) to express flagellin from E. coli K12-MG1655. This strain (M525PΔfliC::fliCK12-MG1655CmR) retained motility and both in vitro and in vivo characterisation was carried out in macrophages and using a murine model of sublethal salmonellosis respectively. Activation of the NAIP/NLRC4 inflammasome was impaired in murine macrophages infected with M525PΔfliC::fliCK12-MG1655CmR when compared to those infected with M525P. Mice infected with M525PΔfliC::fliCK12-MG1655CmR had increased liver and spleen bacterial burdens compared to those infected with M525P, indicating that optimal NAIP/NLRC4 inflammasome activation is key for efficient control of microbial spread in vivo. The role of NAIP receptors in inflammasome formation was further investigated with the use of CRISPR/Cas9 to generate mutant murine macrophage cell lines. To investigate the consequence of gene deletions cell lines were designed to lack NAIP 1, 2, 5 and 6, while others were designed to express tagged NAIP proteins to elucidate the cellular localisation of the NAIP proteins during inflammasome formation by microscopy. Characterisation of these cell lines is ongoing, with extensive optimisation of the CRISPR/Cas9 technique undertaken during this study.
Supervisor: Bryant, Clare Sponsor: Wellcome Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Salmonella typhimurium ; flagellin ; inflammasome ; innate immunity