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Immunology and Infection

Applying Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) to Examine Effector Translocation Efficiency by Coxiella burnetii during siRNA Silencing

Published: July 6th, 2016



1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, University of Melbourne

Investigating the interactions between bacterial pathogens and their hosts is an important area of biological research. Here, we describe the necessary techniques to measure effector translocation by Coxiella burnetii during siRNA gene silencing using BlaM substrate.

Coxiella burnetii, the causative agent of Q fever, is an intracellular pathogen that relies on a Type IV Dot/Icm Secretion System to establish a replicative niche. A cohort of effectors are translocated through this system into the host cell to manipulate host processes and allow the establishment of a unique lysosome-derived vacuole for replication. The method presented here involves the combination of two well-established techniques: specific gene silencing using siRNA and measurement of effector translocation using a FRET-based substrate that relies on β-lactamase activity. Applying these two approaches, we can begin to understand the role of host factors in bacterial secretion system function and effector translocation. In this study we examined the role of Rab5A and Rab7A, both important regulators of the endocytic trafficking pathway. We demonstrate that silencing the expression of either protein results in a decrease in effector translocation efficiency. These methods can be easily modified to examine other intracellular and extracellular pathogens that also utilize secretion systems. In this way, a global picture of host factors involved in bacterial effector translocation may be revealed.

Coxiella burnetii is a unique intracellular pathogen that causes the zoonotic human infection Q fever. This disease is associated with a broad spectrum of clinical presentations extending from asymptomatic seroconversion to life-threatening chronic infection that often manifests as endocarditis years after exposure1. Human infection occurs primarily through the inhalation of contaminated aerosols with ruminants the major reservoir for infection, in particular, dairy cows, sheep and goats. Although Coxiella infection in these animals is typically subclinical, the infection may trigger abortion and the considerable bacterial load within the ....

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Note: All procedures involving the growth or manipulation of Coxiella burnetii RSA439 NMII should be performed in a Physical Containment Level 2 Laboratory and within a biological safety cabinet in compliance with local guidelines. A schematic diagram of the reverse transfection and translocation assay workflow described below is shown in Figure 2.

1. Preparation of C. burnetii Culture Expressing CBU0077 Fused to β-lactamase (pBlaM-CBU0077) (DAY 1)

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For this study, the C. burnetii pBlaM-CBU0077 strain was selected as CBU0077 has been previously shown to be a translocated effector of the Coxiella Dot/Icm secretion system17. Prior to infection, the total number of genomes/ml in the seven day C. burnetii pBlaM-CBU0077 culture was enumerated using qPCR. Figure 4 demonstrates an example of the cycle threshold (Ct) values expected from both standards and samples following qPCR. The Ct .......

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Secretion systems, and the bacterial effector proteins these systems transport into the cytoplasm of host cells, are an important virulence component that many pathogenic bacteria utilize to establish an infection within unique replicative niches. The focus of many research groups has been to investigate the interplay between bacterial effectors and host proteins and the influence these effectors have on host cellular pathways. Very limited research, if any, has examined the potential for host proteins to be necessary fo.......

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This work was supported by National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grants (Grant ID 1062383 and 1063646) awarded to HJN. EAL is supported by an Australian Postgraduate Award.


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
Citric acid Sigma C0759 ACCM-2 medium component
Sodium citrate Sigma S4641 ACCM-2 medium component
Potassium phosphate Sigma 60218 ACCM-2 medium component
Magnesium chloride Calbiochem 442611 ACCM-2 medium component
Calcium chloride Sigma C5080 ACCM-2 medium component
Iron sulfate Fisher S93248 ACCM-2 medium component
Sodium chloride Sigma S9625 ACCM-2 medium component
L-cysteine Sigma C6852 ACCM-2 medium component
Bacto-neopeptone BD 211681 ACCM-2 medium component
Casamino acids Fisher BP1424 ACCM-2 medium component
Methyl beta cyclodextrin Sigma C4555 ACCM-2 medium component
RPMI + Glutamax ThermoFisher Scientific 61870-036 ACCM-2 medium component
Chloramphenicol Sigma C0378 For bacterial culture
ON-TARGETplus Non-targeting Control Pool (OTP) Dharmacon D-001810-10-05 Non-targeting control
siGENOME Human PLK1 (5347) siRNA - SMARTpool Dharmacon M-003290-01-005 Causes cell death; measure of transfection efficiency
siGENOME Human RAB5A (5968) siRNA - SMARTpool Dharmacon M-004009-00-0005
siGENOME Human RAB7A (7879) siRNA - SMARTpool Dharmacon M-010388-00-0005
5X siRNA buffer Dharmacon B-002000-UB-100 Use sterile RNase-free water to dilute 5X siRNA buffer to 1X siRNA buffer
DharmaFECT-1 Transfection Reagent Dharmacon T-2001-01 For transfection
Opti-MEM + GlutaMAX ThermoFisher Scientific 51985-034 Reduced-serum medium used for transfection
DMEM + GlutaMAX ThermoFisher Scientific 10567-014 For cell culture and infection
Heat-inactivated fetal calf serum (FCS) Thermo Scientific SH30071.03 Can use alternate equivalent product
DMSO Sigma D8418 For storage of Coxiella strain
PBS For cell culture
0.05% Trypsin + EDTA ThermoFisher Scientific 25300-054 For cell culture
dH2O For dilution of samples and standards for qPCR
Quick-gDNA Mini Prep ZYMO Research D3007 Can use alternate equivalent product to extract gDNA
SensiFAST SYBR No-ROX Kit Bioline BIO-98020 Can use alternate equivalent qPCR master mix product for qPCR reaction
LiveBLAzer FRET-B/G Loading kit with CCF2-AM Invitrogen K1032 For measurement of translocation using fluorescence and generation of the 6X loading solution (contains Solution A, B, C and DMSO)
Sodium hydroxide Merck 106469 Probenicid solution component
Sodium phosphate monobasic Sigma 71505 Probenicid solution component
di-Sodium hydrogen orthophosphate Merck 106586 Probenicid solution component
Probenicid Sigma P8761 Probenicid solution component
DRAQ5 Fluorescent Probe Solution (5 mM) ThermoFisher Scientific 62251 Nuclei stain to determine cell viablity. Use 1:4000 diluted in PBS. 
4% PFA (paraformaldehyde) solution in PBS Sigma P6148 Fixing solution for HeLa 229 cells
25cm2 tissue culture flask with vented cap Corning 430639 For growth of bacterial strain
96 Well Flat Clear bottom Black Polystyrene TC-Treated Microplates, Individually wrapped, with Lid, Sterile Corning 3603
75cm2 tissue culture flask with vented cap Corning 430641 For growth of HeLa 229 cells
175cm2 tissue culture flask with vented cap Corning 431080 For growth of HeLa 229 cells
Haemocytometer For quantification of HeLa 229 cells
Tear-A-Way 96 Well PCR plates 4titude 4ti-0750/TA For qPCR reaction
8-Lid chain, flat Sarstedt 65.989.002 For qPCR reaction
Name Company Catalog Number Comments
Bench top microfuge
Bench top vortex
Orbital mixer
Centrifuge Eppendorf 5810 R For pelleting bacterial culture
Nanodrop For gDNA quantification
Mx3005P QPCR machine Aligent Technologies 401456 For quantification of Coxiella genomes in 7 day culture
ClarioSTAR microplate reader BMG LabTech For measurement of fluorescence

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