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Metabolic Plasticity Aids Amphotropism of Coxiella burnetii

Savannah E. Sanchez, Alan G. Goodman,
Published: 7 September 2021

Abstract: Coxiella burnetii , the causative agent of Query (Q) fever in humans, is an obligate intracellular bacterium. C. burnetii can naturally infect a broad range of host organisms (e.g., mammals and arthropods) and cell types. This amphotropic nature of C. burnetii , in combination with its ability to utilize both glycolytic and gluconeogenic carbon sources, suggests that the pathogen relies on metabolic plasticity to replicate in nutritionally diverse intracellular environments. To test the significance of metabolic plasticity in C. burnetii host cell colonization, C. burnetii intracellular replication in seven distinct cell lines was compared between a metabolically competent parental strain and a mutant, Cb Δ pckA, unable to undergo gluconeogenesis. Both the parental strain and Cb Δ pckA exhibited host cell-dependent infection phenotypes, which were influenced by alterations to host glycolytic or gluconeogenic substrate availability. Because the nutritional environment directly impacts host cell physiology, our analysis was extended to investigate the response of C. burnetii replication in mammalian host cells cultivated in a novel physiological medium based on the nutrient composition of mammalian interstitial fluid, Interstitial Fluid-modeled Medium (IFmM). An infection model based on IFmM resulted in exacerbation of a replication defect exhibited by Cb Δ pckA in specific cell lines. Cb Δ pckA was also attenuated during infection of an animal host. Overall, the study underscores that gluconeogenic capacity aids C. burnetii amphotropism and that the amphotropic nature of C. burnetii should be considered when resolving virulence mechanisms in this pathogen.
Keywords: plasticity / burnetii / cell lines / amphotropic nature / pathogen / glycolytic or gluconeogenic / physiology / diverse

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