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A leptospiral AAA+ chaperone-Ntn peptidase complex, HslUV, contributes to the intracellular survival of Leptospira interrogans in hosts and the transmission of leptospirosis.


Leptospirosis caused by Leptospira is a zoonotic disease of global importance but it is considered as an emerging or re-emerging infectious disease in many areas in the world. Until now, the mechanisms about pathogenesis and transmission of Leptospira remains poorly understood. As eukaryotic and prokaryotic proteins can be denatured in adverse environments and chaperone-protease/peptidase complexes degrade these harmful proteins, we speculate that infection may also cause leptospiral protein denaturation, and the HslU and HslV proteins of L. interrogans may compose a complex to degrade denatured proteins that enhances leptospiral survival in hosts. Here we show that leptospiral HslUV is an ATP-dependent chaperone-peptidase complex containing ATPase associated with various cellular activity (AAA+) and N-terminal nucleophile (Ntn) hydrolase superfamily domains, respectively, which hydrolyzed casein and chymotrypsin-like substrates, and this hydrolysis was blocked by threonine protease inhibitors. The infection of J774A.1 macrophages caused the increase of leptospiral denatured protein aggresomes, but more aggresomes accumulated in hslUV gene-deleted mutant. The abundant denatured leptospiral proteins are involved in ribosomal structure, flagellar assembly, two-component signaling systems and transmembrane transport. Compared to the wild-type strain, infection of cells in vitro with the mutant resulted in a higher number of dead leptospires, less leptospiral colony-forming units and lower growth ability, but also displayed a lower half lethal dose, attenuated histopathological injury and decreased leptospiral loading in lungs, liver, kidneys, peripheral blood and urine in hamsters. Therefore, our findings confirmed that HslUV AAA+ chaperone-Ntn peptidase complex of L. interrogans contributes to leptospiral survival in hosts and transmission of leptospirosis.

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