Pertussis toxin exacerbates and prolongs airway inflammatory responses during Bordetella pertussis infection

Throughout infection, pathogenic bacteria induce dramatic changes in host transcriptional repertoires. An understanding of how bacterial factors influence host reprogramming will provide insight into disease pathogenesis. In the human respiratory pathogen Bordetella pertussis, the causative agent of whooping cough, pertussis toxin (PT) is a key virulence factor that promotes colonization, suppresses innate immune responses during early infection, and causes systemic disease symptoms. To determine the full extent of PT-associated gene regulation in the airways through the peak of infection, we measured global transcriptional profiles in the lungs of BALB/c mice infected with wild-type (WT) or PT-deficient (ΔPT) B. pertussis. ΔPT bacteria were inoculated at a dose equivalent to the WT dose and at a high dose (ΔPT(high)) to distinguish effects caused by higher bacterial loads achieved in WT infection from effects associated with PT. The results demonstrated that PT was associated with a significant upregulation of immune and inflammatory response genes as well as several other genes implicated in airway pathology. In contrast to the early, transient responses observed for ΔPT(high) infection, WT infection induced a prolonged expression of inflammatory genes and increased the extent and duration of lung histopathology. In addition, the administration of purified PT to ΔPT(high)-infected mice 1 day after bacterial inoculation exacerbated and prolonged inflammatory responses and airway pathology. These data indicate that PT not only is associated with exacerbated host airway responses during peak B. pertussis infection but also may inhibit host mechanisms of attenuating and resolving inflammation in the airways, suggesting possible links between PT and pertussis disease symptoms.

Authors: Connelly CE, Sun Y, Carbonetti NH.
Journal:Infect Immun. 2012 Dec