Metalloprotease NleC Suppresses Host NF-κB/Inflammatory Responses by Cleaving p65 and Interfering with the p65/RPS3 Interaction

Andrea Hodgson, Eric M. Wier, Kai Fu, Xin Sun, Hongbing Yu, Wenxin Zheng, Ho Pan Sham, Kaitlin Johnson, Scott Bailey, Bruce A. Vallance, Fengyi Wan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Attaching/Effacing (A/E) pathogens including enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC), enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) and the rodent equivalent Citrobacter rodentium are important causative agents of foodborne diseases. Upon infection, a myriad of virulence proteins (effectors) encoded by A/E pathogens are injected through their conserved type III secretion systems (T3SS) into host cells where they interfere with cell signaling cascades, in particular the nuclear factor kappaB (NF-κB) signaling pathway that orchestrates both innate and adaptive immune responses for host defense. Among the T3SS-secreted non-LEE-encoded (Nle) effectors, NleC, a metalloprotease, has been recently elucidated to modulate host NF-κB signaling by cleaving NF-κB Rel subunits. However, it remains elusive how NleC recognizes NF-κB Rel subunits and how the NleC-mediated cleavage impacts on host immune responses in infected cells and animals. In this study, we show that NleC specifically targets p65/RelA through an interaction with a unique N-terminal sequence in p65. NleC cleaves p65 in intestinal epithelial cells, albeit a small percentage of the molecule, to generate the p651–38 fragment during C. rodentium infection in cultured cells. Moreover, the NleC-mediated p65 cleavage substantially affects the expression of a subset of NF-κB target genes encoding proinflammatory cytokines/chemokines, immune cell infiltration in the colon, and tissue injury in C. rodentium-infected mice. Mechanistically, the NleC cleavage-generated p651–38 fragment interferes with the interaction between p65 and ribosomal protein S3 (RPS3), a ‘specifier’ subunit of NF-κB that confers a subset of proinflammatory gene transcription, which amplifies the effect of cleaving only a small percentage of p65 to modulate NF-κB-mediated gene expression. Thus, our results reveal a novel mechanism for A/E pathogens to specifically block NF-κB signaling and inflammatory responses by cleaving a small percentage of p65 and targeting the p65/RPS3 interaction in host cells, thus providing novel insights into the pathogenic mechanisms of foodborne diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1004705
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalPLoS pathogens
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Virology


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