Neutrophil bleaching of GFP-expressing staphylococci: probing the intraphagosomal fate of individual bacteria. Academic Article uri icon


  • Successful host defense against bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus (SA) depends on a prompt response by circulating polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMN). Stimulated PMN create in their phagosomes an environment inhospitable to most ingested bacteria. Granules that fuse with the phagosome deliver an array of catalytic and noncatalytic antimicrobial peptides, while activation of the NADPH oxidase at the phagosomal membrane generates reactive oxygen species within the phagosome, including hypochlorous acid (HOCl), formed by the oxidation of chloride by the granule protein myeloperoxidase in the presence of H(2)O(2). In this study, we used SA-expressing cytosolic GFP to provide a novel probe of the fate of SA in human PMN. PMN bleaching of GFP in SA required phagocytosis, active myeloperoxidase, H(2)O(2) from the NADPH oxidase, and chloride. Not all ingested SA were bleached, and the number of cocci within PMN-retaining fluorescent GFP closely correlated with the number of viable bacteria remaining intracellularly. The percent of intracellular fluorescent and viable SA increased at higher multiplicity of infection and when SA presented to PMN had been harvested from the stationary phase of growth. These studies demonstrate that the loss of GFP fluorescence in ingested SA provides a sensitive experimental probe for monitoring biochemical events within individual phagosomes and for identifying subpopulations of SA that resist intracellular PMN cytotoxicity. Defining the molecular basis of SA survival within PMN should provide important insights into bacterial and host properties that limit PMN antistaphylococcal action and thus contribute to the pathogenesis of staphylococcal infection.

publication date

  • January 1, 2009