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© Research
Publication : PLoS pathogens

Immune subversion and quorum-sensing shape the variation in infectious dose among bacterial pathogens

Scientific Fields
Diseases
Organisms
Applications
Technique

Published in PLoS pathogens - 02 Feb 2012

Gama JA, Abby SS, Vieira-Silva S, Dionisio F, Rocha EP

Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 22319444

PLoS Pathog. 2012 Feb;8(2):e1002503

Many studies have been devoted to understand the mechanisms used by pathogenic bacteria to exploit human hosts. These mechanisms are very diverse in the detail, but share commonalities whose quantification should enlighten the evolution of virulence from both a molecular and an ecological perspective. We mined the literature for experimental data on infectious dose of bacterial pathogens in humans (ID50) and also for traits with which ID50 might be associated. These compilations were checked and complemented with genome analyses. We observed that ID50 varies in a continuous way by over 10 orders of magnitude. Low ID50 values are very strongly associated with the capacity of the bacteria to kill professional phagocytes or to survive in the intracellular milieu of these cells. Inversely, high ID50 values are associated with motile and fast-growing bacteria that use quorum-sensing based regulation of virulence factors expression. Infectious dose is not associated with genome size and shows insignificant phylogenetic inertia, in line with frequent virulence shifts associated with the horizontal gene transfer of a small number of virulence factors. Contrary to previous proposals, infectious dose shows little dependence on contact-dependent secretion systems and on the natural route of exposure. When all variables are combined, immune subversion and quorum-sensing are sufficient to explain two thirds of the variance in infectious dose. Our results show the key role of immune subversion in effective human infection by small bacterial populations. They also suggest that cooperative processes might be important for successful infection by bacteria with high ID50. Our results suggest that trade-offs between selection for population growth-related traits and selection for the ability to subvert the immune system shape bacterial infectiousness. Understanding these trade-offs provides guidelines to study the evolution of virulence and in particular the micro-evolutionary paths of emerging pathogens.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22319444