Extracellular form of Francisella is able to cross various cell barriers and invade multiple organs, such as skin, liver, lung and central nervous system. Transient adhesion of Francisella to endothelial cells may trigger the process of translocation. In this report, we showed that Francisella tularensis subsp. holarctica (Fth) is able to adhere to the endothelial cells, while ICAM-1 may serve as an adhesion molecule for Fth. Pull down and affinity ligand binding assays indicated that the PilE4 could be the probable ligand for ICAM-1. Further deciphering of this ligand:receptor interaction revealed that PilE4 interacts with Ig-like C2-type 1 domain of ICAM-1. To corroborate the role of PilE4 and ICAM-1 interaction in adhesion of extracellular form of Fth to endothelial cells, ICAM-1 was blocked with monoclonal anti-ICAM-1 antibody prior to the incubation with Fth and numbers of adherent bacteria were counted. Blocking of the ICAM-1 significantly reduced (500-fold, P < 0.05) number of adherent Fth compared to unblocked cells. PilE4:ICAM-1 interaction unfolded here may provide a new perspective on molecules involved in the adhesion of extracellular form of Francisella to endothelial cells and probably its translocation across endothelial barriers.
Keywords: Endothelial cells; Francisella; ICAM-1; Type IV pili.
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