Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2010

Degree Name

MS (Master of Science)

Degree In


First Advisor

Nauseef, William M

Second Advisor

Sutterwala, Fayyaz S

First Committee Member

Wilson, Mary E

Second Committee Member

Jones, Bradley D


The mechanisms by which the facultative intracellular pathogen Francisella tularensis is recognized by the innate immune system and the strategies that F. tularensis uses to avoid this recognition are not well understood. We have identified the basic components of the inflammasome that assemble in response to F. tularensis Live Vaccine Strain (LVS) challenge as containing the cysteine protease caspase-1, the adaptor protein ASC and the PYHIN molecule AIM2. We have also shown here that the nucleotide-binding domain leucine-rich repeat containing receptors (NLRs), NLRC4, NLRP3, NLRP6, NLRP10, and NLRP12 were not necessary for activation of caspase-1 and subsequent IL-1β secretion in response to challenge with F. tularensis LVS in vitro. In vivo, NLRC4, NLRP3, NLRP6, NLRP10, and NLRP12 did not appear to enhance survival. However, caspase-1- and ASC-deficient mice succumbed more rapidly to infection, indicating that the inflammasome played a role in defense against F. tularensis LVS. Additionally, we identified a gene with homology to Escherichia coli mviN, a putative lipid II flippase, that functions as a F. tularensis virulence factor. In vivo infection of mice with a F. tularensis LVS mviN transposon mutant (mviN::Tn5) resulted in improved host survival and decreased bacterial burdens compared to infection with wild-type F. tularensis LVS. Wild-type F. tularensis LVS and the mviN::Tn5 mutant replicated at a similar rate in both macrophages and liquid broth culture. Additionally, the ability to induce the production of TNF-α or IL-6 was also similar between WT F. tularensis and the mviN::Tn5 mutant. In contrast to the similar levels of production of IL-6 and TNF-α, the mviN mutant induced increased AIM2 inflammasome-dependent IL-1β secretion and cytotoxicity in macrophages compared to wild-type F. tularensis. The compromised in vivo virulence associated with the mutation of mviN was dependent upon inflammasome activation, as caspase-1- and ASC-deficient mice did not exhibit preferential survival following infection. These data show that F. tularensis LVS activation of the inflammasome is caspase-1-, ASC-, and AIM2-dependent. These data also identify mviN as a novel F. tularensis virulence factor that enables F. tularensis LVS to evade some AIM2 inflammasome activation.


AIM2, Francisella tularensis, Inflammasome, LVS, mviN, peptidoglycan


xi, 76 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 67-76).


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Copyright © 2010 Tyler Kent Ulland