The Salmonella type III secretory system secretes virulence proteins, called effectors. Effectors are responsible for the alteration of tight junctions (TJ) and epithelial functions in intestinal infection and inflammation. In a previous study, we have demonstrated that a bacterial effector AvrA plays a role in stabilizing TJs and balancing the opposing action of other bacterial effectors. However, the molecular mechanisms by which AvrA-modulates TJ protein expression remain unknown. AvrA possesses acetyltransferase activity toward specific mitogen-activated protein kinase kinases (MAPKKs) and potently inhibits the c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) pathway in inflammation. Inhibition of the JNK pathway is known to inhibit the TJ protein disassemble. Therefore, we hypothesize that AvrA stabilizes intestinal epithelial TJs via c-Jun and JNK pathway blockage. Using both in vitro and in vivo models, we showed that AvrA targets the c-Jun and JNK pathway that in turn stabilizes TJ protein ZO-1. Inhibition of JNK abolished the effect of AvrA on ZO-1. We further determined that AvrA suppressed the transcription factor activator protein-1, which was regulated by activated JNK. Moreover, we identified the functional domain of AvrA that directly regulated TJs using a series of AvrA mutants. The role of AvrA represents a highly refined bacterial strategy that helps the bacteria survive in the host and dampens the inflammatory response of the host. Our findings have uncovered a novel role of the bacterial protein AvrA in suppressing the inflammatory response of the host through JNK-regulated blockage of epithelial cell barrier function.
- Epithelial cell
- Tight junction