Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 23876800
Infect. Immun. 2013 Oct;81(10):3632-43
Mucin glycoproteins are secreted in large amounts by the intestinal epithelium and constitute an efficient component of innate immune defenses to promote homeostasis and protect against enteric pathogens. In this study, our objective was to investigate how the bacterial enteropathogen Shigella flexneri, which causes bacillary dysentery, copes with the mucin defense barrier. We report that upon in vitro infection of mucin-producing polarized human intestinal epithelial cells, virulent S. flexneri manipulates the secretion of gel-forming mucins. This phenomenon, which is triggered only by virulent strains, results in accumulation of mucins at the cell apical surface, leading to the appearance of a gel-like structure that favors access of bacteria to the cell surface and the subsequent invasion process. We identify MUC5AC, a gel-forming mucin, as a component of this structure. Formation of this gel does not depend on modifications of electrolyte concentrations, induction of trefoil factor expression, endoplasmic reticulum stress, or response to unfolded proteins. In addition, transcriptional and biochemical analyses of infected cells reveal modulations of mucin gene expression and modifications of mucin glycosylation patterns, both of which are induced by virulent bacteria in a type III secretion system-dependent manner. Thus, S. flexneri has developed a dedicated strategy to alter the mucus barrier by targeting key elements of the gel-forming capacity of mucins: gene transcription, protein glycosylation, and secretion.