Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 26484539
PLoS Pathog. 2015 Oct;11(10):e1005222
Activation and/or recruitment of the host plasmin, a fibrinolytic enzyme also active on extracellular matrix components, is a common invasive strategy of bacterial pathogens. Yersinia pestis, the bubonic plague agent, expresses the multifunctional surface protease Pla, which activates plasmin and inactivates fibrinolysis inhibitors. Pla is encoded by the pPla plasmid. Following intradermal inoculation, Y. pestis has the capacity to multiply in and cause destruction of the lymph node (LN) draining the entry site. The closely related, pPla-negative, Y. pseudotuberculosis species lacks this capacity. We hypothesized that tissue damage and bacterial multiplication occurring in the LN during bubonic plague were linked and both driven by pPla. Using a set of pPla-positive and pPla-negative Y. pestis and Y. pseudotuberculosis strains in a mouse model of intradermal injection, we found that pPla is not required for bacterial translocation to the LN. We also observed that a pPla-cured Y. pestis caused the same extensive histological lesions as the wild type strain. Furthermore, the Y. pseudotuberculosis histological pattern, characterized by infectious foci limited by inflammatory cell infiltrates with normal tissue density and follicular organization, was unchanged after introduction of pPla. However, the presence of pPla enabled Y. pseudotuberculosis to increase its bacterial load up to that of Y. pestis. Similarly, lack of pPla strongly reduced Y. pestis titers in LNs of infected mice. This pPla-mediated enhancing effect on bacterial load was directly dependent on the proteolytic activity of Pla. Immunohistochemistry of Pla-negative Y. pestis-infected LNs revealed extensive bacterial lysis, unlike the numerous, apparently intact, microorganisms seen in wild type Y. pestis-infected preparations. Therefore, our study demonstrates that tissue destruction and bacterial survival/multiplication are dissociated in the bubo and that the primary action of Pla is to protect bacteria from destruction rather than to alter the tissue environment to favor Y. pestis propagation in the host.