Macrophages inhibit Coxiella burnetii by the ACOD1 ‐itaconate pathway for containment of Q fever
Infection with the intracellular bacterium Coxiella (C.) burnetii can cause chronic Q fever with severe complications and limited treatment options. Here, we identify the enzyme cis-aconitate decarboxylase 1 (ACOD1 or IRG1) and its product itaconate as protective host immune pathway in Q fever. Infection of mice with C. burnetii induced expression of several anti-microbial candidate genes, including Acod1. In macrophages, Acod1 was essential for restricting C. burnetii replication, while other antimicrobial pathways were dispensable. Intratracheal or intraperitoneal infection of Acod1−/− mice caused increased C. burnetii burden, weight loss and stronger inflammatory gene expression. Exogenously added itaconate restored pathogen control in Acod1−/− mouse macrophages and blocked replication in human macrophages. In axenic cultures, itaconate directly inhibited growth of C. burnetii. Finally, treatment of infected Acod1−/− mice with itaconate efficiently reduced the tissue pathogen load. Thus, ACOD1-derived itaconate is a key factor in the macrophage-mediated defense against C. burnetii and may be exploited for novel therapeutic approaches in chronic Q fever.