Apoptosis-Like Death in Bacteria Induced by HAMLET, a Human Milk Lipid-Protein Complex

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Abstract

Background: Apoptosis is the primary means for eliminating unwanted cells in multicellular organisms in order to preserve tissue homeostasis and function. It is characterized by distinct changes in the morphology of the dying cell that are orchestrated by a series of discrete biochemical events. Although there is evidence of primitive forms of programmed cell death also in prokaryotes, no information is available to suggest that prokaryotic death displays mechanistic similarities to the highly regulated programmed death of eukaryotic cells. In this study we compared the characteristics of tumor and bacterial cell death induced by HAMLET, a human milk complex of alpha-lactalbumin and oleic acid. Methodology/Principal Findings: We show that HAMLET-treated bacteria undergo cell death with mechanistic and morphologic similarities to apoptotic death of tumor cells. In Jurkat cells and Streptococcus pneumoniae death was accompanied by apoptosis-like morphology such as cell shrinkage, DNA condensation, and DNA degradation into high molecular weight fragments of similar sizes, detected by field inverse gel electrophoresis. HAMLET was internalized into tumor cells and associated with mitochondria, causing a rapid depolarization of the mitochondrial membrane and bound to and induced depolarization of the pneumococcal membrane with similar kinetic and magnitude as in mitochondria. Membrane depolarization in both systems required calcium transport, and both tumor cells and bacteria were found to require serine protease activity (but not caspase activity) to execute cell death. Conclusions/Significance: Our results suggest that many of the morphological changes and biochemical responses associated with apoptosis are present in prokaryotes. Identifying the mechanisms of bacterial cell death has the potential to reveal novel targets for future antimicrobial therapy and to further our understanding of core activation mechanisms of cell death in eukaryote cells.

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Authors
Organisations
External organisations
  • University at Buffalo
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Microbiology in the medical area
  • Immunology in the medical area
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere17717
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume6
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes

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