Host and Bacterial Factors Control Susceptibility of Drosophila melanogaster to Coxiella burnetii Infection

Infect Immun. 2017 Jun 20;85(7):e00218-17. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00218-17. Print 2017 Jul.


Coxiella burnetii is the causative agent of Q fever, a zoonotic disease that threatens both human and animal health. Due to the paucity of experimental animal models, little is known about how host factors interface with bacterial components and affect pathogenesis. Here, we used Drosophila melanogaster, in conjunction with the biosafety level 2 (BSL2) Nine Mile phase II (NMII) clone 4 strain of C. burnetii, as a model to investigate host and bacterial components implicated in infection. We demonstrate that adult Drosophila flies are susceptible to C. burnetii NMII infection and that this bacterial strain, which activates the immune deficiency (IMD) pathway, is able to replicate and cause mortality in the animals. We show that in the absence of Eiger, the only known tumor necrosis factor (TNF) superfamily homolog in Drosophila, Coxiella-infected flies exhibit reduced mortality from infection. We also demonstrate that the Coxiella type 4 secretion system (T4SS) is critical for the formation of the Coxiella-containing vacuole and establishment of infection in Drosophila Altogether, our data reveal that the Drosophila TNF homolog Eiger and the Coxiella T4SS are implicated in the pathogenesis of C. burnetii in flies. The Drosophila/NMII model mimics relevant aspects of the infection in mammals, such as a critical role of host TNF and the bacterial T4SS in pathogenesis. Our work also demonstrates the usefulness of this BSL2 model to investigate both host and Coxiella components implicated in infection.

Keywords: Eiger; IMD; NMII; Q fever; T4SS; TNF; innate immunity; pathogenesis; tumor necrosis factor.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Coxiella burnetii / immunology*
  • Coxiella burnetii / pathogenicity*
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Drosophila Proteins / deficiency
  • Drosophila melanogaster / immunology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / microbiology*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions*
  • Membrane Proteins / deficiency
  • Q Fever / immunology
  • Q Fever / microbiology*
  • Survival Analysis
  • Type IV Secretion Systems / genetics
  • Type IV Secretion Systems / metabolism
  • Vacuoles / microbiology


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Type IV Secretion Systems
  • egr protein, Drosophila