Visualization of bacterial toxin induced responses using live cell fluorescence microscopy

Peter A. Keyel, Michelle E. Heid, Simon C. Watkins, Russell D. Salter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

Bacterial toxins bind to cholesterol in membranes, forming pores that allow for leakage of cellular contents and influx of materials from the external environment. The cell can either recover from this insult, which requires active membrane repair processes, or else die depending on the amount of toxin exposure and cell type1. In addition, these toxins induce strong inflammatory responses in infected hosts through activation of immune cells, including macrophages, which produce an array of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Many Gram positive bacteria produce cholesterol binding toxins which have been shown to contribute to their virulence through largely uncharacterized mechanisms. Morphologic changes in the plasma membrane of cells exposed to these toxins include their sequestration into cholesterol-enriched surface protrusions, which can be shed into the extracellular space, suggesting an intrinsic cellular defense mechanism. This process occurs on all cells in the absence of metabolic activity, and can be visualized using EM after chemical fixation. In immune cells such as macrophages that mediate inflammation in response to toxin exposure, induced membrane vesicles are suggested to contain cytokines of the IL-1 family and may be responsible both for shedding toxin and disseminating these pro-inflammatory cytokines. A link between IL-1β release and a specific type of cell death, termed pyroptosis has been suggested, as both are caspase-1 dependent processes8. To sort out the complexities of this macrophage response, which includes toxin binding, shedding of membrane vesicles, cytokine release, and potentially cell death, we have developed labeling techniques and fluorescence microscopy methods that allow for real time visualization of toxin-cell interactions, including measurements of dysfunction and death (Figure 1). Use of live cell imaging is necessary due to limitations in other techniques. Biochemical approaches cannot resolve effects occurring in individual cells, while flow cytometry does not offer high resolution, real-time visualization of individual cells. The methods described here can be applied to kinetic analysis of responses induced by other stimuli involving complex phenotypic changes in cells.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number68
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2012

Keywords

  • Cellular biology
  • Cholesterol-dependent cytolysin
  • Fluorescence microscopy
  • Immunology
  • Issue 68
  • Live cell imaging
  • Physiology
  • Pore-forming toxin
  • Streptolysin o

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