Defying Death - How Coxiella burnetii Copes with Intentional Host Cell Suicide
The obligate intracellular pathogen Coxiella burnetii is the causative agent of the worldwide zoonotic disease Q fever. This Gram-negative bacterium infects macrophages where it establishes a replicative niche in an acidic and phagolysosome-like vacuole. Establishing and maintaining the niche requires a functional type IV secretion system (T4SS) which translocates multiple effector proteins into the host cell. These effector proteins act by manipulating diverse cellular processes allowing the bacterium to establish an infection and complete its complex biphasic developmental cycle. The lengthy nature of this life cycle suggests that C. burnetii has to successfully deal with cellular defense processes. Cell death is one mechanism infected cells frequently utilize to control or to at least minimize the impact of an infection. To date, four effector proteins have been identified in C. burnetii, which interfere with the induction of cell death. Three, AnkG, CaeA, and CaeB, affect intrinsic apoptosis, CaeA additionally extrinsic apoptosis. The proteins target different steps of the apoptotic pathway and are not conserved among isolates suggesting redundancy as an important feature of cell death inhibition. The fourth effector protein, IcaA, interferes with the non-canonical pathway of pyroptosis, an important inflammatory cell death pathway for controlling infectious disease. Autophagy is relevant for the C. burnetii life-cycle, but to which extent autophagic cell death is a factor in bacterial survival and proliferation is still not clear. To convincingly understand how bacterial manipulation of autophagy affects cell death either directly or indirectly will require further experiments. Collectively, C. burnetii modulates the extrinsic and intrinsic apoptotic pathways and non-canonical pyroptosis to inhibit host cell death, thereby providing a stable, intracellular niche for the course of the pathogen’s infectious cycle.