Proximity-dependent proteomics of the Chlamydia trachomatis inclusion membrane reveals functional interactions with endoplasmic reticulum exit sites

PLoS Pathog. 2019 Apr 3;15(4):e1007698. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1007698. eCollection 2019 Apr.


Chlamydia trachomatis is the most common cause of bacterial sexually transmitted infection, responsible for millions of infections each year. Despite this high prevalence, the elucidation of the molecular mechanisms of Chlamydia pathogenesis has been difficult due to limitations in genetic tools and its intracellular developmental cycle. Within a host epithelial cell, chlamydiae replicate within a vacuole called the inclusion. Many Chlamydia-host interactions are thought to be mediated by the Inc family of type III secreted proteins that are anchored in the inclusion membrane, but their array of host targets are largely unknown. To investigate how the inclusion membrane proteome changes over the course of an infected cell, we have adapted the APEX2 system of proximity-dependent biotinylation. APEX2 is capable of specifically labeling proteins within a 20 nm radius in living cells. We transformed C. trachomatis to express the enzyme APEX2 fused to known inclusion membrane proteins, allowing biotinylation and purification of inclusion-associated proteins. Using quantitative mass spectrometry against APEX2 labeled samples, we identified over 400 proteins associated with the inclusion membrane at early, middle, and late stages of epithelial cell infection. This system was sensitive enough to detect inclusion interacting proteins early in the developmental cycle, at 8 hours post infection, a previously intractable time point. Mass spectrometry analysis revealed a novel, early association between C. trachomatis inclusions and endoplasmic reticulum exit sites (ERES), functional regions of the ER where COPII-coated vesicles originate. Pharmacological and genetic disruption of ERES function severely restricted early chlamydial growth and the development of infectious progeny. APEX2 is therefore a powerful in situ approach for identifying critical protein interactions on the membranes of pathogen-containing vacuoles. Furthermore, the data derived from proteomic mapping of Chlamydia inclusions has illuminated an important functional role for ERES in promoting chlamydial developmental growth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / analysis*
  • Chlamydia / isolation & purification
  • Chlamydia Infections / metabolism*
  • Chlamydia Infections / microbiology
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism*
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / microbiology
  • HeLa Cells
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Inclusion Bodies / metabolism*
  • Inclusion Bodies / microbiology
  • Isotope Labeling / methods*
  • Membrane Proteins / analysis*
  • Proteome / analysis*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Proteome