• Deletion Mutants of Phagosomal Transporters FptA and FptF Are Highly Attenuated for Virulence and Are Protective Against Lethal Intranasal LVS Challenge in a Murine Model of Respiratory Tularemia

      Hobbs, Brandi E; Matson, Courtney A; Theofilou, Vasileios I; Webb, Tonya J; Younis, Rania H; Barry, Eileen M (MDPI AG, 2021-06-24)
      Francisella tularensis (Ft) is a Gram-negative, facultative intracellular bacterium that is a Tier 1 Select Agent of concern for biodefense for which there is no licensed vaccine. A subfamily of 9 Francisella phagosomal transporter (fpt) genes belonging to the Major Facilitator Superfamily of transporters was identified as critical to pathogenesis and potential targets for attenuation and vaccine development. We evaluated the attenuation and protective capacity of LVS derivatives with deletions of the fptA and fptF genes in the C57BL/6J mouse model of respiratory tularemia. LVSΔfptA and LVSΔfptF were highly attenuated with LD50 values of >20 times that of LVS when administered intranasally and conferred 100% protection against lethal challenge. Immune responses to the fpt mutant strains in mouse lungs on day 6 post-infection were substantially modified compared to LVS and were associated with reduced organ burdens and reduced pathology. The immune responses to LVSΔfptA and LVSΔfptF were characterized by decreased levels of IL-10 and IL-1β in the BALF versus LVS, and increased numbers of B cells, αβ and γδ T cells, NK cells, and DCs versus LVS. These results support a fundamental requirement for FptA and FptF in the pathogenesis of Ft and the modulation of the host immune response.