A Chlamydia pneumoniae adhesin induces phosphatidylserine exposure on host cells

Nat Commun. 2019 Oct 11;10(1):4644. doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-12419-8.


In mammalian cells, the internal and external leaflets of the plasma membrane (PM) possess different phospholipids. Phosphatidylserine (PS) is normally confined to the inner (cytoplasmic) membrane leaflet. Here we report that the adhesin CPn0473 of the human pathogenic bacterium Chlamydia pneumoniae (Cpn) binds to the PM of human cells and induces PS externalization but unexpectedly not apoptosis. PS externalization is increased in human cells exposed to infectious Cpn cells expressing increased CPn0473 and reduced in exposure to Cpn expressing decreased CPn0473. CPn0473 binds specifically to synthetic membranes carrying PS and stimulates pore formation. Asymmetric giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) in which PS is restricted to the inner leaflet reveal that CPn0473 induces PS externalization in the absence of other proteins. Thus our identification of CPn0473 as a bacterial PS translocator capable of specific and apoptosis-independent PS externalization during infection extends the spectrum of mechanisms intracellular pathogens use to enter host cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adhesins, Bacterial / metabolism
  • Adhesins, Bacterial / physiology*
  • Chlamydophila pneumoniae / physiology*
  • Host Microbial Interactions
  • Humans
  • Membrane Lipids / chemistry
  • Membrane Lipids / metabolism
  • Phosphatidylserines / metabolism*
  • Phospholipid Transfer Proteins / metabolism


  • Adhesins, Bacterial
  • Membrane Lipids
  • Phosphatidylserines
  • Phospholipid Transfer Proteins