CpG oligodeoxyribonucleotides protect mice from Burkholderia pseudomallei but not Francisella tularensis Schu S4 aerosols
© Rozak et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2010
Received: 10 November 2009
Accepted: 5 February 2010
Published: 5 February 2010
Studies have shown that CpG oligodeoxyribonucleotides (ODN) protect mice from various bacterial pathogens, including Burkholderia pseudomallei and Francisella tularensis live vaccine strain (LVS), when administered before parenteral challenge. Given the potential to develop CpG ODN as a pre-treatment for multiple bacterial biological warfare agents, we examined survival, histopathology, and cytokine data from CpG ODN-treated C57BL/6 mice to determine whether previously-reported protection extended to aerosolized B. pseudomallei 1026b and highly virulent F. tularensis Schu S4 infections. We found that, although CpG ODN protected mice from aerosolized B. pseudomallei challenges, the immunostimulant failed to benefit the animals exposed to F. tularensis Schu S4 aerosols. Our results, which contrast with earlier F. tularensis LVS studies, highlight potential differences in Francisella species pathogenesis and underscore the need to evaluate immunotherapies against human pathogenic species.
Bacteria-derived CpG oligodeoxyribonucleotides (ODN) are potent stimulators of the innate immune system, acting via the toll-like receptor (TLR) 9 signaling pathway. Consequently, the small CpG-rich motifs  have been successfully developed as adjuvants for a broad array of bacterial subunit vaccines and are currently undergoing multiple clinical trials . CpG ODNs have also been administered alone as pretreatments to effectively protect mice from infection by different bacterial pathogens , including the biological warfare threat agents Burkholderia mallei  and Burkholderia pseudomallei . Murine studies of the Francisella tularensis live vaccine strain (LVS)  suggest that CpG ODN may also protect against human-virulent F. tularensis Schu S4 infection. Significantly, researchers have shown that CpG ODNs protect mice from F. tularensis LVS when the therapy is administered anywhere from two days to two weeks before parenteral challenge  and can maintain this protection indefinitely when CpG ODN is given two to three times a month . Provided CpG ODNs can broadly protect against different aerosolized biological warfare agents days or weeks after treatment, the molecules may represent potential pretreatments for military or civilian personnel at risk of exposure to the weaponized bacteria.
In order to determine whether CpG ODN protects mice from aerosolized B. pseudomallei 1026b or F. tularensis Schu S4 challenges (all previous reports deal with parenteral challenges), we gave groups of 8-10 anaesthetized 8-week-old female C57BL6/J mice 20 μl i.n. or 200 μl i.p. injections of Hank's basal salt solution (HBSS) 48 h before or 1 h after receiving aerosolized doses of B. pseudomallei 1026b or F. tularensis Schu S4.
Depending on the group, 150 μg CpG ODN 10103 (Coley Pharmaceutical Group: 5'-TCG TCG TTT CGT CGT TTT GTC GTT-3'), which has been developed as a potent stimulant for the human immune system, was added to the saline treatment. CpG ODN variants are known to produce different immunostimulatory responses in different mammalian species . However, our own unpublished studies suggest that CpG ODN 10103 performs comparably in mice to CpG ODN 7909 (5'-TCGTCGTTTTGTCGTTTTGTCGTT-3'), which was previously reported to protect the BALB/c mice from Burkholderia mallei challenges . Despite CpG ODN 10103's traditional use as a human adjuvant, we have found that the immunostimulant's ability to protect mice from aerosolized B. pseudomallei (reported here) and B. mallei (unpublished data) suggest that, as with the CpG motifs used in other Burkholderia and F. tularensis murine studies [3–6], the oligodeoxyribonucleotide is an effective immunostimulant in both C57BL6/J and BALB/c mice.
Tissue samples from the same mice were also ground and diluted 10-fold by mass into 25 mM pH 7.0 potassium phosphate buffer before aliquots were sampled using the BD Cytokine Bead Array (CBA) Mouse Inflammation kit (BD Biosciences, San Jose, CA) according to the manufacturer's protocol. Cytokine levels in the livers, lungs, and spleens of mice euthanized on days 1, 3, and 6 postinfection correlated well with the B. pseudomallei- and F. tularensis-induced pathogenesis observed in the same tissue samples (Figure 2). Whereas interleukin (IL)-6, monocyte chemotactic protein (MCP)-1, interferon (IFN)-γ, and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) were statistically elevated in the hepatic tissue of untreated B. pseudomallei-infected mice, the cytokines dropped to basal levels in the lungs and livers of similarly infected CpG ODN-treated mice, which generally lacked culturable bacteria at 6 days postinfection. Conversely, 6 days after infection, cytokine levels were dramatically elevated in the lungs, livers, and spleens of F. tularensis-challenged mice, regardless of whether or not they received CpG ODN treatments. Elevated cytokine levels in the lungs and spleens of F. tularensis-infected animals 6 days postinfection correlated well with the recruitment of immune cells to the interstitial lung tissue and acute necrosis of the spleen observed by histopathology.
The novel aerosol data presented here corroborate previous reports of CpG ODN-mediated protection for B. pseudomallei-infected BALB/c mice with novel data for low- and high-dose aerosolized challenges of C57BL6/J mice. However, the results of our F. tularensis Schu S4 experiments contrast with earlier accounts of the protection offered by CpG ODN treatments for C57BL6/J mice challenged with the less virulent F. tularensis LVS. The independent survival and histopathology experiments presented in Figures 1 and 2 reveal that CpG ODN 10103 failed to positively affect the course of F. tularensis Schu S4 pneumonic infection and statistically reduced the survival rates for CpG ODN-treated mice exposed to low-dose F. tularensis Schu S4 aerosols.
Differing responses to immunostimulatory treatments have already been reported among Francisella species and appear to be consistent with the potentially adverse effects observed here for F. tularensis Schu S4, which is known to actively impair host immune response [9, 10]. Specifically, Kieffer et al reported that mice treated with either F. tularensis LVS- or F. novicida U112-derived lipopolysaccaride (LPS) 3-5 days before bacterial challenge were protected from F. tularensis LVS, but not F. novicida U112, infections . In fact, the group observed that their LPS therapies may have actually enhanced the virulence F. novicida, which is more closely related by genome analysis [12, 13] and murine virulence models  to F. tularensis type A strains than type B. Therefore, while our findings regarding F. tularensis Schu S4 infection in CpG ODN-treated mice are novel, they are not entirely unexpected in the context of Francisella research and further underscore the need for immunotherapeutic studies in both A and B subtypes.
Finally, we would like to assert that all research was conducted in compliance with the Animal Welfare Act and other federal statutes and regulations relating to animals and experiments involving animals and adheres to principles stated in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, National Research Council, 1996. The facility where this research was conducted is fully accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International.
cytokine bead array
colony forming unit
Hank's basal saline solution
live vaccine strain
monocyte chemotactic protein
modified Thayer-Martin agar
tumor necrosis factor.
The research described herein was sponsored by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, Department of Defense, project number ZZ0001_06_RD_B. This project was supported in part by appointments to the Internship/Research Participation Program for the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education through an agreement between the U.S. Department of Energy and the USAMRMC. We thank Sarah Norris for her support with the statistical analysis. Opinions, interpretations, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the authors and are not necessarily endorsed by the United States Army.
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