Premature apoptosis of Chlamydia-infected cells disrupts chlamydial development

Songmin Ying, Matthew Pettengill, E. Ray Latham, Axel Walch, David M. Ojcius, Georg Häcker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article peer-review

21 Scopus citations


The obligate intracellular development of Chlamydia suggests that the bacteria should be vulnerable to premature host cell apoptosis, but because Chlamydia-infected cells are apoptosis resistant, this has never been able to be tested. We have devised a system to circumvent the apoptotic block imposed by chlamydial infection. When the proapoptotic protein BimS was experimentally induced, epithelial cells underwent apoptosis that was not blocked by chlamydial infection. Apoptosis during the developmental cycle prevented the generation of infectious bacteria and caused transcriptional changes of bacterial genes and loss of intracellular ATP. Intriguingly, although apoptosis resulted in destruction of host cell structures and of the Chlamydia inclusion, and prevented generation of elementary bodies, BimS induction in the presence of a caspase inhibitor allowed differentiation into morphologically normal but noninfectious elementary bodies. These data show that chlamydial infection renders host cells apoptosis resistant at a premitochondrial step and demonstrate the consequences of premature apoptosis for development of the bacteria.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1536-1544
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Infectious Diseases
Issue number10
StatePublished - 15 11 2008
Externally publishedYes


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