Lipid droplets exist in virtually every cell type, ranging not only from mammals to plants, but also to eukaryotic and prokaryotic unicellular organisms such as Dictyostelium and bacteria. They serve among other roles as energy reservoir that cells consume in times of starvation. Mycobacteria and some other intracellular pathogens hijack these organelles as a nutrient source and to build up their own lipid inclusions. The mechanisms by which host lipid droplets are captured by the pathogenic bacteria are extremely poorly understood. Using the powerful Dictyostelium discoideum/Mycobacterium marinum infection model, we observed that, immediately after their uptake, lipid droplets translocate to the vicinity of the vacuole containing live but not dead mycobacteria. Induction of lipid droplets in Dictyostelium prior to infection resulted in a vast accumulation of neutral lipids and sterols inside the bacterium-containing compartment. Subsequently, under these conditions, mycobacteria accumulated much larger lipid inclusions. Strikingly, the Dictyostelium homologue of perilipin and the murine perilipin 2 surrounded bacteria that had escaped to the cytosol of Dictyostelium or microglial BV-2 cells respectively. Moreover, bacterial growth was inhibited in Dictyostelium plnA knockout cells. In summary, our results provide evidence that mycobacteria actively manipulate the lipid metabolism of the host from very early infection stages.
© 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.