Purpose: Bacillus causes a sight-threating infection of the posterior segment of the eye. The robust intraocular inflammatory response in this disease is likely activated via host innate receptor interactions with components of the Bacillus cell envelope. S-layer proteins (SLPs) of some Gram-positive pathogens contribute to the pathogenesis of certain infections. The potential contributions of SLPs in eye infection pathogenesis have not been considered. Here, we explored the role of a Bacillus SLP (SlpA) in endophthalmitis pathogenesis.
Methods: The phenotypes and infectivity of wild-type (WT) and S-layer deficient (ΔslpA) Bacillus thuringiensis were compared. Experimental endophthalmitis was induced in C57BL/6J mice by intravitreally injecting 100-CFU WT or ΔslpA B. thuringiensis. Infected eyes were analyzed by bacterial counts, retinal function analysis, histology, and inflammatory cell influx. SLP-induced inflammation was also analyzed in vitro. Muller cells (MIO-M1) were treated with purified SLP. Nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) DNA binding was measured by ELISA and expression of proinflammatory mediators from Muller cells was measured by RT-qPCR.
Results: Tested phenotypes of WT and ΔslpA B. thuringiensis were similar, with the exception of absence of the S-layer in the ΔslpA mutant. Intraocular growth of WT and ΔslpA B. thuringiensis was also similar. However, eyes infected with the ΔslpA mutant had significantly reduced inflammatory cell influx, less inflammatory damage to the eyes, and significant retention of retinal function compared with WT-infected eyes. SLP was also a potent stimulator of the NF-κB pathway and induced the expression of proinflammatory mediators (IL6, TNFα, CCL2, and CXCL-1) in human retinal Muller cells.
Conclusions: Taken together, our results suggest that SlpA contributes to the pathogenesis of Bacillus endophthalmitis, potentially by triggering innate inflammatory pathways in the retina.