Pore-forming Activity of Type III System-Secreted Proteins Leads to Oncosis of Pseudomonas Aeruginosa-Infected Macrophages

Mol Microbiol. 2001 Apr;40(1):76-85. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.2001.02368.x.


The Pseudomonas aeruginosa cystic fibrosis isolate CHA induces type III secretion system-dependent but ExoU-independent oncosis of neutrophils and macrophages. Time-lapse microscopy of the infection process revealed the rapid accumulation of motile bacteria around infected cells undergoing the process of oncosis, a phenomenon we termed pack swarming. Characterization of the non-chemotactic CHAcheZ mutant showed that pack swarming is a bacterial chemotactic response to infected macrophages. A non-cytotoxic mutant, lacking the type III-secreted proteins PcrV, PopB and PopD, was able to pack swarm only in the presence of the parental strain CHA or when macrophages were pretreated with the pore-forming toxin streptolysin O. Interaction of P. aeruginosa with red blood cells (RBCs) showed that the contact-dependent haemolysis provoked by CHA requires secretion via the type III system and the PcrV, PopB/PopD proteins. The pore inserted into RBC membrane was estimated from osmoprotection experiments to be between 2.8 and 3.5 nm. CHA-infected macrophages could be protected from cell lysis with PEG3350, indicating that the pore introduced into RBC and macrophage membranes is of similar size. The time course uptake of the vital fluorescent dye, Yo-Pro-1, into infected macrophages confirmed that the formation of transmembrane pores by CHA precedes cellular oncosis. Therefore, CHA-induced macrophage death results from a pore-forming activity that is dependent on the intact pcrGVHpopBD operon.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / physiology*
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Death*
  • Cell Line
  • DNA Primers
  • Erythrocytes / microbiology
  • Hemolysis
  • Humans
  • Macrophages / cytology*
  • Macrophages / microbiology
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / metabolism
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / physiology*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA Primers