Objective: Infection with Chlamydia trachomatis is a known cause of sexually transmitted diseases, eye infections (including trachoma), and reactive arthritis (ReA). Because the mechanisms of Chlamydia-induced changes leading to ReA are poorly defined, this study sought to identify the target genes involved at the molecular level.
Methods: Chlamydia-induced changes in host cells were investigated by combining a screening technique, which utilized complementary DNA arrays on C trachomatis-infected and mock-infected epithelial HeLa cells, with real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay of gene products. Some responses were additionally demonstrated on human primary chondrocytes and a human synovial fibroblast cell line, both of which served as model cells for ReA.
Results: Eighteen genes (of 1,176) were found to be up-regulated after 24 hours of infection with this obligate intracellular bacterium, among them the glycoprotein 130 family members IL-11 and LIF, the chemokine gene MIP2-alpha, the transcription factor genes EGR1, ETR101, FRA1, and c-jun, the apoptosis-related genes IEX-1L and MCL-1, adhesion molecule genes such as ICAM1, and various other functionally important genes. In the context of this rheumatic disease, the cytokines and transcription factors seem to be especially involved, since various connections to chondrocytes, synoviocytes, bone remodeling, joint pathology, and other rheumatic diseases have been demonstrated.
Conclusion: Infection with C trachomatis seems to reprogram the host cells (independent of activation by lipopolysaccharide or other ultraviolet-resistant bacterial components) at various key positions that act as intra- or intercellular switches, suggesting that these changes and similar Chlamydia-induced functional alterations constitute an important basis of the pathogenic inflammatory potential of these cells in ReA. Our results suggest that this approach is generally useful for the broad analysis of host-pathogen interactions involving obligate intracellular bacteria, and for the identification of target genes for therapeutic intervention in this rheumatic disease.