A study of innate immune kinetics reveals a role for a chloride transporter in a virulent Francisella tularensis type B strain

Lisa M. Matz, Joseph F. Petrosino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Tularemia is a zoonotic disease of global proportions. Francisella tularensis subspecies tularensis (type A) and holarctica (type B) cause disease in healthy humans, with type A infections resulting in higher mortality. Repeated passage of a type B strain in the mid-20th century generated the Live Vaccine Strain (LVS). LVS remains unlicensed, does not protect against high inhalational doses of type A, and its exact mechanisms of attenuation are poorly understood. Recent data suggest that live attenuated vaccines derived from type B may cross-protect against type A. However, there is a dearth of knowledge regarding virulent type B pathogenesis and its capacity to stimulate the host's innate immune response. We therefore sought to increase our understanding of virulent type B in vitro characteristics using strain OR96-0246 as a model. Adding to our knowledge of innate immune kinetics in macrophages following infection with virulent type B, we observed robust replication of strain OR96-0246 in murine and human macrophages, reduced expression of pro-inflammatory cytokine genes from “wild type” type B-infected macrophages compared to LVS, and delayed macrophage cell death suggesting that virulent type B may suppress macrophage activation. One disruption in LVS is in the gene encoding the chloride transporter ClcA. We investigated the role of ClcA in macrophage infection and observed a replication delay in a clcA mutant. Here, we propose its role in acid tolerance. A greater understanding of LVS attenuation may reveal new mechanisms of pathogenesis and inform strategies toward the development of an improved vaccine against tularemia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1170
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Francisella tularensis subsp. holarctica
  • Live Vaccine Strain
  • TargeTron™ chromosomal insertion
  • innate immunity
  • proton:chloride antiporter
  • tularemia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology


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