Streptococcus pneumoniae triggers progression of pulmonary fibrosis through pneumolysin
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RATIONALE: Respiratory tract infections are common in patients suffering from pulmonary fibrosis. The interplay between bacterial infection and fibrosis is characterised poorly. OBJECTIVES: To assess the effect of Gram-positive bacterial infection on fibrosis exacerbation in mice. METHODS: Fibrosis progression in response to Streptococcus pneumoniae was examined in two different mouse models of pulmonary fibrosis. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: We demonstrate that wild-type mice exposed to adenoviral vector delivery of active transforming growth factor-β1 (TGFß1) or diphteria toxin (DT) treatment of transgenic mice expressing the DT receptor (DTR) under control of the surfactant protein C (SPC) promoter (SPC-DTR) to induce pulmonary fibrosis developed progressive fibrosis following infection with Spn, without exhibiting impaired lung protective immunity against Spn. Antibiotic treatment abolished infection-induced fibrosis progression. The cytotoxin pneumolysin (Ply) of Spn caused this phenomenon in a TLR4-independent manner, as Spn lacking Ply (SpnΔply) failed to trigger progressive fibrogenesis, whereas purified recombinant Ply did. Progressive fibrogenesis was also observed in AdTGFβ1-exposed Ply-challenged TLR4 KO mice. Increased apoptotic cell death of alveolar epithelial cells along with an attenuated intrapulmonary release of antifibrogenic prostaglandin E2 was found to underlie progressive fibrogenesis in Ply-challenged AdTGFβ1-exposed mice. Importantly, vaccination of mice with the non-cytotoxic Ply derivative B (PdB) substantially attenuated Ply-induced progression of lung fibrosis in AdTGFβ1-exposed mice. CONCLUSIONS: Our data unravel a novel mechanism by which infection with Spn through Ply release induces progression of established lung fibrosis, which can be attenuated by protein-based vaccination of mice.
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