Relative contribution of extracellular and internalised bacteria to early macrophage pro-inflammatory responses to Streptococcus pneumoniae

J Periselneris, G Ercoli, Tracey Pollard, Suneeta Chimalapati, Emilie Camberlein, G Szylar, Catherine Hyams, Gillian Tomlinson, Fernanda Petersen, Andres Floto, Mahdad Noursadeghi, Jeremy S Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
174 Downloads (Pure)


Both intracellular immune sensing and extracellular innate immune sensing have been implicated in initiating macrophage proinflammatory cytokine responses to Streptococcus pneumoniae. The S. pneumoniae capsule, a major virulence
determinant, prevents phagocytosis, and we hypothesized that this would reduce
activation of host innate inflammatory responses by preventing activation of intracellular proinflammatory signaling pathways. We investigated this hypothesis in human monocyte-derived macrophages stimulated with encapsulated or isogenic unencapsulated mutant S. pneumoniae. Unexpectedly, despite strongly inhibiting bacterial internalization, the capsule resulted in enhanced inflammatory cytokine production by macrophages infected with S. pneumoniae. Experiments using purified capsule material and a Streptococcus mitis mutant expressing an S. pneumoniae serotype 4 capsule indicated these differences required whole bacteria and were not due to proinflammatory effects of the capsule itself. Transcriptional profiling demonstrated relatively few differences in macrophage gene expression profiles between infections with encapsulated S. pneumoniae and those with unencapsulated S. pneumoniae, largely limited to reduced expression of proinflammatory genes in response to unencapsulated bacteria, predicted to be due to reduced activation of the NF-B family of transcription factors. Blocking S. pneumoniae internalization using cytochalasin D had minimal effects on the inflammatory response to S. pneumoniae. Experiments using murine macrophages indicated that the affected genes were dependent on Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2) activation, although not through direct stimulation of TLR2 by capsule polysaccharide. Our data demonstrate that the early macrophage proinflammatory response to S. pneumoniae is mainly dependent on extracellular bacteria and reveal an unexpected proinflammatory effect of encapsulated S. pneumoniae that could contribute to disease pathogenesis.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 24 Sept 2019


  • Streptococcus pneumoniae
  • capsule
  • TLR2
  • inflammation


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