By: Nele de Klerk

Title: Host-bacteria interactions: host cell responses and bacterial pathogenesis


Helicobacter pylori colonizes the human stomach, where it causes gastritis that may develop into peptic ulcer disease or cancer when left untreated. Neisseria gonorrhoeae colonizes the urogenital tract and causes the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea. In contrast, Lactobacillus species are part of the human microbiota, which is the resident microbial community, and are considered to be beneficial for health. The first host cell types that bacteria encounter when they enter the body are epithelial cells, which form the border between the inside and the outside, and macrophages, which are immune cells that engulf unwanted material.

The focus of this thesis has been the interaction between the host and bacteria, aiming to increase our knowledge of the molecular mechanisms that underlie the host responses and their effects on bacterial pathogenicity. Understanding the interactions between bacteria and the host will hopefully enable the development of new strategies for the treatment of infectious disease.

In paper I, we investigated the effect of N. gonorrhoeae on the growth factor amphiregulin in cervical epithelial cells and found that the processing and release of amphiregulin changes upon infection. In paper II, we examined the expression of the transcription factor early growth response-1 (EGR1) in epithelial cells during bacterial colonization. We demonstrated that EGR1 is rapidly upregulated by many different bacteria. This upregulation is independent of the pathogenicity, Gram- staining type and level of adherence of the bacteria, but generally requires viable bacteria and contact with the host cell. The induction of EGR1 is mediated primarily by signaling through EGFR, ERK1/2 and β1-integrins. In paper III, we described the interactions of the uncharacterized protein JHP0290, which is secreted by H. pylori, with host cells. JHP0290 is able to bind to several cell types and induces apoptosis and TNF release in macrophages. For both of these responses, signaling through Src family kinases and ERK is essential. Apoptosis is partially mediated by TNF release. Finally, in paper IV, we showed that certain Lactobacillus strains can reduce the colonization of H. pylori on gastric epithelial cells. Lactobacilli decrease the gene expression of SabA and thereby inhibit the binding mediated by this adhesin.

Keywords: Host-bacteria interaction, Helicobacter pylori, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Lactobacillus, Epithelial cells, Macrophages, EGR1, Amphiregulin, SabA.