Klebsiella pneumoniae induces host metabolic stress that promotes tolerance to pulmonary infection

Cell Metab. 2022 May 3;34(5):761-774.e9. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2022.03.009. Epub 2022 Apr 11.


K. pneumoniae sequence type 258 (Kp ST258) is a major cause of healthcare-associated pneumonia. However, it remains unclear how it causes protracted courses of infection in spite of its expression of immunostimulatory lipopolysaccharide, which should activate a brisk inflammatory response and bacterial clearance. We predicted that the metabolic stress induced by the bacteria in the host cells shapes an immune response that tolerates infection. We combined in situ metabolic imaging and transcriptional analyses to demonstrate that Kp ST258 activates host glutaminolysis and fatty acid oxidation. This response creates an oxidant-rich microenvironment conducive to the accumulation of anti-inflammatory myeloid cells. In this setting, metabolically active Kp ST258 elicits a disease-tolerant immune response. The bacteria, in turn, adapt to airway oxidants by upregulating the type VI secretion system, which is highly conserved across ST258 strains worldwide. Thus, much of the global success of Kp ST258 in hospital settings can be explained by the metabolic activity provoked in the host that promotes disease tolerance.

Keywords: Klebsiella pneumoniae; M2 macrophages; MDSCs; bacterial adaptation; disease tolerance; immunometabolism; immunosuppression; itaconate; pulmonary infection; type 6 secretion system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Klebsiella Infections* / microbiology
  • Klebsiella pneumoniae*
  • Stress, Physiological