Illuminating vital surface molecules of symbionts in health and disease


Jason E Hudak, David Alvarez, Ashwin Skelly, Ulrich H von Andrian, and Dennis L Kasper. 2017. “Illuminating vital surface molecules of symbionts in health and disease.” Nat Microbiol, 2, Pp. 17099.


The immunomodulatory surface molecules of commensal and pathogenic bacteria are critical to microorganisms' survival and the host's response1,2. Recent studies have highlighted the unique and important responses elicited by commensal-derived surface macromolecules3-5. However, the technology available to track these molecules in host cells and tissues remains primitive. We report, here, an interdisciplinary approach that uses metabolic labelling combined with bioorthogonal click chemistry (that is, reactions performed in living organisms)6 to specifically tag up to three prominent surface immunomodulatory macromolecules-peptidoglycan, lipopolysaccharide and capsular polysaccharide-either simultaneously or individually in live anaerobic commensal bacteria. Importantly, the peptidoglycan labelling enables, for the first time, the specific labelling of live endogenous, anaerobic bacteria within the mammalian host. This approach has allowed us to image and track the path of labelled surface molecules from live, luminal bacteria into specific intestinal immune cells in the living murine host during health and disease. The chemical labelling of three specific macromolecules within a live organism offers the potential for in-depth visualization of host-pathogen interactions.