Innate Immun. 2017 Jan 1:1753425917704299. doi: 10.1177/1753425917704299. [Epub ahead of print]

The interrelationship between phagocytosis, autophagy and formation of neutrophil extracellular traps following infection of human neutrophils by Streptococcus pneumoniae.

Ullah I1, Ritchie ND1, Evans TJ1.

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Neutrophils play an important role in the innate immune response to infection with Streptococcus pneumoniae, the pneumococcus. Pneumococci are phagocytosed by neutrophils and undergo killing after ingestion. Other cellular processes may also be induced, including autophagy and the formation of neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs), which may play a role in bacterial eradication. We set out to determine how these different processes interacted following pneumococcal infection of neutrophils, and the role of the major pneumococcal toxin pneumolysin in these various pathways. We found that pneumococci induced autophagy in neutrophils in a type III phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase dependent fashion that also required the autophagy gene Atg5. Pneumolysin did not affect this process. Phagocytosis was inhibited by pneumolysin but enhanced by autophagy, while killing was accelerated by pneumolysin but inhibited by autophagy. Pneumococci induced extensive NET formation in neutrophils that was not influenced by pneumolysin but was critically dependent on autophagy. While pneumolysin did not affect NET formation, it had a potent inhibitory effect on bacterial trapping within NETs. These findings show a complex interaction between phagocytosis, killing, autophagy and NET formation in neutrophils following pneumococcal infection that contribute to host defence against this pathogen.


Autophagy; Streptococcus pneumoniae; bacterial killing; neutrophil extracellular trap; pneumolysin

PMID: 28399692 DOI: 10.1177/1753425917704299