Mahtab Moayeri

Ph.D
Staff Scientist
National Institutes of Health · NIAID Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases

Publications

  • Shihui Liu, Mahtab Moayeri, Stephen H Leppla
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    ABSTRACT: The pathophysiological effects resulting from many bacterial diseases are caused by exotoxins released by the bacteria. Bacillus anthracis, a spore-forming bacterium, is such a pathogen, causing anthrax through a combination of bacterial infection and toxemia. B. anthracis causes natural infection in humans and animals and has been a top bioterrorism concern since the 2001 anthrax attacks in the USA. The exotoxins secreted by B. anthracis use capillary morphogenesis protein 2 (CMG2) as the major toxin receptor and play essential roles in pathogenesis during the entire course of the disease. This review focuses on the activities of anthrax toxins and their roles in initial and late stages of anthrax infection.
    Trends in Microbiology 03/2014; · 8.43 Impact Factor
  • Cell metabolism 03/2014; 19(3):345-346. · 17.35 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Toxoplasma gondii is an intracellular parasite that infects a wide range of warm-blooded species. Rats vary in their susceptibility to this parasite. The Toxo1 locus conferring Toxoplasma resistance in rats was previously mapped to a region of chromosome 10 containing Nlrp1. This gene encodes an inflammasome sensor controlling macrophage sensitivity to anthrax lethal toxin (LT) induced rapid cell death (pyroptosis). We show here that rat strain differences in Toxoplasma infected macrophage sensitivity to pyroptosis, IL-1β/IL-18 processing, and inhibition of parasite proliferation are perfectly correlated with NLRP1 sequence, while inversely correlated with sensitivity to anthrax LT-induced cell death. Using recombinant inbred rats, SNP analyses and whole transcriptome gene expression studies, we narrowed the candidate genes for control of Toxoplasma-mediated rat macrophage pyroptosis to four genes, one of which was Nlrp1. Knockdown of Nlrp1 in pyroptosis-sensitive macrophages resulted in higher parasite replication and protection from cell death. Reciprocally, overexpression of the NLRP1 variant from Toxoplasma-sensitive macrophages in pyroptosis-resistant cells led to sensitization of these resistant macrophages. Our findings reveal Toxoplasma as a novel activator of the NLRP1 inflammasome in rat macrophages.
    PLoS Pathogens 03/2014; 10(3):e1003927. · 8.14 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: ABSTRACT Induction of immunity that limits Toxoplasma gondii infection in mice is critically dependent on the activation of the innate immune response. In this study, we investigated the role of cytoplasmic nucleotide-binding domain and leucine-rich repeat containing a pyrin domain (NLRP) inflammasome sensors during acute toxoplasmosis in mice. We show that in vitro Toxoplasma infection of murine bone marrow-derived macrophages activates the NLRP3 inflammasome, resulting in the rapid production and cleavage of interleukin-1β (IL-1β), with no measurable cleavage of IL-18 and no pyroptosis. Paradoxically, Toxoplasma-infected mice produced large quantities of IL-18 but had no measurable IL-1β in their serum. Infection of mice deficient in NLRP3, caspase-1/11, IL-1R, or the inflammasome adaptor protein ASC led to decreased levels of circulating IL-18, increased parasite replication, and death. Interestingly, mice deficient in NLRP1 also displayed increased parasite loads and acute mortality. Using mice deficient in IL-18 and IL-18R, we show that this cytokine plays an important role in limiting parasite replication to promote murine survival. Our findings reveal T. gondii as a novel activator of the NLRP1 and NLRP3 inflammasomes in vivo and establish a role for these sensors in host resistance to toxoplasmosis. IMPORTANCE Inflammasomes are multiprotein complexes that are a major component of the innate immune system. They contain "sensor" proteins that are responsible for detecting various microbial and environmental danger signals and function by activating caspase-1, an enzyme that mediates cleavage and release of the proinflammatory cytokines interleukin-1β (IL-1β) and IL-18. Toxoplasma gondii is a highly successful protozoan parasite capable of infecting a wide range of host species that have variable levels of resistance. We report here that T. gondii is a novel activator of the NLRP1 and NLRP3 inflammasomes in vivo and establish a role for these sensors in host resistance to toxoplasmosis. Using mice deficient in IL-18 and IL-18R, we show that the IL-18 cytokine plays a pivotal role by limiting parasite replication to promote murine survival.
    mBio 01/2014; 5(1). · 6.88 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Inflammasomes are large cytoplasmic multiprotein complexes that activate caspase-1 in response to diverse intracellular danger signals. Inflammasome components termed nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain-like receptor (NLR) proteins act as sensors for pathogen-associated molecular patterns, stress, or danger stimuli. We discovered that arsenicals, including arsenic trioxide and sodium arsenite, inhibited activation of the NLRP1, NLRP3, and NAIP5/NLRC4 inflammasomes by their respective activating signals, anthrax lethal toxin, nigericin, and flagellin. These compounds prevented the autoproteolytic activation of caspase-1 and the processing and secretion of IL-1β from macrophages. Inhibition was independent of protein synthesis induction, proteasome-mediated protein breakdown, or kinase signaling pathways. Arsenic trioxide and sodium arsenite did not directly modify or inhibit the activity of preactivated recombinant caspase-1. Rather, they induced a cellular state inhibitory to both the autoproteolytic and substrate cleavage activities of caspase-1, which was reversed by the reactive oxygen species scavenger N-acetylcysteine but not by reducing agents or NO pathway inhibitors. Arsenicals provided protection against NLRP1-dependent anthrax lethal toxin-mediated cell death and prevented NLRP3-dependent neutrophil recruitment in a monosodium urate crystal inflammatory murine peritonitis model. These findings suggest a novel role in inhibition of the innate immune response for arsenical compounds that have been used as therapeutics for a few hundred years.
    The Journal of Immunology 12/2013; · 5.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Anthrax lethal toxin is a classical AB toxin comprised of two components: protective antigen (PA) and lethal factor (LF). Here, we show that following assembly and endocytosis, PA forms a channel that translocates LF, not only into the cytosol, but also into the lumen of endosomal intraluminal vesicles (ILVs). These ILVs can fuse and release LF into the cytosol, where LF can proteolyze and disable host targets. We find that LF can persist in ILVs for days, fully sheltered from proteolytic degradation, both in vitro and in vivo. During this time, ILV-localized LF can be transmitted to daughter cells upon cell division. In addition, LF-containing ILVs can be delivered to the extracellular medium as exosomes. These can deliver LF to the cytosol of naive cells in a manner that is independent of the typical anthrax toxin receptor-mediated trafficking pathway, while being sheltered from neutralizing extracellular factors of the immune system.
    Cell Reports 11/2013; · 7.21 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax disease, is lethal owing to the actions of two exotoxins: anthrax lethal toxin (LT) and oedema toxin (ET). The key tissue targets responsible for the lethal effects of these toxins are unknown. Here we generated cell-type-specific anthrax toxin receptor capillary morphogenesis protein-2 (CMG2)-null mice and cell-type-specific CMG2-expressing mice and challenged them with the toxins. Our results show that lethality induced by LT and ET occurs through damage to distinct cell types; whereas targeting cardiomyocytes and vascular smooth muscle cells is required for LT-induced mortality, ET-induced lethality occurs mainly through its action in hepatocytes. Notably, and in contradiction to what has been previously postulated, targeting of endothelial cells by either toxin does not seem to contribute significantly to lethality. Our findings demonstrate that B. anthracis has evolved to use LT and ET to induce host lethality by coordinately damaging two distinct vital systems.
    Nature 08/2013; · 38.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax, manifests its pathogenesis through the action of two secreted toxins. The bipartite lethal and edema toxins, a combination of lethal factor or edema factor with the protein protective antigen, are important virulence factors for this bacterium. We previously developed small molecule inhibitors of lethal factor proteolytic activity (LFIs) and demonstrated their in vivo efficacy in a rat lethal toxin challenge model. In this work we show that these LFIs protect against lethality caused by anthrax infection in mice when combined with sub-protective doses of either antibiotics or neutralizing monoclonal antibodies that target edema factor. Significantly, these inhibitors provided protection against lethal infection when administered as a monotherapy. As little as two doses (10 mg/kg) administered at 2 h and 8 h after spore infection was sufficient to provide a significant survival benefit in infected mice. Administration of LFIs early in the infection was found to inhibit dissemination of vegetative bacteria to the organs in the first 32 h following infection. In addition, neutralizing antibodies against edema factor also inhibited bacterial dissemination with similar efficacy. Together, our findings confirm the important roles that both anthrax toxins play in establishing anthrax infection, and demonstrate the potential for small molecule therapeutics targeting these proteins.
    Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy 06/2013; · 4.57 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Signals of danger and damage in the cytosol of cells are sensed by NOD-like receptors (NLRs), which are components of multiprotein complexes called inflammasomes. Inflammasomes activate caspase-1, resulting in IL-1-beta and IL-18 secretion and an inflammatory response. To date, the only known activator of rodent Nlrp1 is anthrax lethal toxin (LT), a protease secreted by the bacterial pathogen Bacillus anthracis. Although susceptibility of mouse macrophages to LT has been genetically linked to Nlrp1b, mice harbor two additional Nlrp1 paralogs in their genomes (Nlrp1a and Nlrp1c). However, little is known about their expression profile and sequence in different mouse strains. Furthermore, simultaneous expression of these paralogs may lead to competitional binding of Nlrp1b interaction partners needed for inflammasome activation, thus influencing macrophages susceptibility to LT. To more completely understand the role(s) of Nlrp1 paralogs in mice, we surveyed for their expression in a large set of LT-resistant and sensitive mouse macrophages. In addition, we provide sequence comparisons for Nlrp1a and report on previously unrecognized splice variants of Nlrp1b. RESULTS: Our results show that macrophages from some inbred mouse strains simultaneously express different splice variants of Nlrp1b. In contrast to the highly polymorphic Nlrp1b splice variants, sequencing of expressed Nlrp1a showed the protein to be highly conserved across all mouse strains. We found that Nlrp1a was expressed only in toxin-resistant macrophages, with the sole exception of expression in LT-sensitive Cast/EiJ macrophages. Consistently, when widening Nlrp1a expression analysis to different mouse tissues, we found expression in most tissues of C57BL/6J, but not in those of Balb/cJ mice. CONCLUSIONS: Our data present a complex picture of Nlrp1 protein variations and provide a basis for elucidating their roles in murine macrophage function. Furthermore, the high conservation of Nlrp1a implies that it might be an important inflammasome sensor in mice.
    BMC Genomics 03/2013; 14(1):188. · 4.40 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Anthrax toxin protective antigen (PA) delivers its effector proteins into the host cell cytosol through formation of an oligomeric pore, which can assume heptameric or octameric states. By screening a highly directed library of PA mutants, we identified variants that complement each other to exclusively form octamers. These PA variants were individually nontoxic and demonstrated toxicity only when combined with their complementary partner. We then engineered requirements for activation by matrix metalloproteases and urokinase plasminogen activator into two of these variants. The resulting therapeutic toxin specifically targeted cells expressing both tumor associated proteases, and completely stopped tumor growth in mice when used at a dose far below that which caused toxicity. This scheme for obtaining intercomplementing subunits can be employed with other oligomeric proteins, and potentially has wide application.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 02/2013; · 4.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Anthrax edema factor (EF) is a calmodulin-dependent adenylate cyclase that converts adenosine triphosphate (ATP) into 3'-5'-cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), contributing to the establishment of Bacillus anthracis infections and the resulting pathophysiology. We show that EF adenylate cyclase toxin activity is strongly mediated by the N-end rule, and thus is dependent on the identity of the N-terminal amino acid. EF variants having different N-terminal residues varied by more than 100-fold in potency in cultured cells and mice. EF variants having unfavorable, destabilizing N-terminal residues showed much greater activity in cells when the E1 ubiquitin ligase was inactivated or when proteasome inhibitors were present. Taken together, these results show that EF is uniquely affected by ubiquitination and/or proteasomal degradation.
    PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(8):e74474. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Vascular leakage pathologies such as pleural effusion and hemorrhage are hallmarks of anthrax pathogenesis. We previously reported that anthrax lethal toxin (LT), the major virulence factor of anthrax, reduces barrier function in cultured primary human microvascular endothelial cells. Here, we show that LT-induced barrier dysfunction is accompanied by the reduced expression of the endothelial tight junction (TJ) protein claudin-5 but no change in the expression of other TJ components occludin, ZO-1, ZO-2, or the adherens junction (AJ) protein VE-cadherin. The downregulation of claudin-5 correlated temporally and dose-dependently with the reduction of transendothelial electrical resistance. LT-induced loss of claudin-5 was independent of cell death and preceded the appearance of actin stress fibers and altered AJ morphology. Pharmacological inhibition of MEK-1/2, two kinases that are proteolytically inactivated by LT, showed a similar reduction in claudin-5 expression. We found that LT reduced claudin-5 mRNA levels but did not accelerate the rate of claudin-5 degradation. Mice challenged with LT also showed significant reduction in claudin-5 expression. Together, these findings support a possible role for LT disruption of endothelial TJs in the vascular leakage pathologies of anthrax.
    PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(4):e62576. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Detection of microbial products by host inflammasomes is an important mechanism of innate immune surveillance. Inflammasomes activate the caspase-1 (CASP1) protease, which processes the cytokines interleukin (IL)-1β and IL-18, and initiates a lytic host cell death called pyroptosis. To identify novel CASP1 functions in vivo, we devised a strategy for cytosolic delivery of bacterial flagellin, a specific ligand for the NAIP5 (NLR family, apoptosis inhibitory protein 5)/NLRC4 (NLR family, CARD-domain-containing 4) inflammasome. Here we show that systemic inflammasome activation by flagellin leads to a loss of vascular fluid into the intestine and peritoneal cavity, resulting in rapid (less than 30 min) death in mice. This unexpected response depends on the inflammasome components NAIP5, NLRC4 and CASP1, but is independent of the production of IL-1β or IL-18. Instead, inflammasome activation results, within minutes, in an 'eicosanoid storm'--a pathological release of signalling lipids, including prostaglandins and leukotrienes, that rapidly initiate inflammation and vascular fluid loss. Mice deficient in cyclooxygenase-1, a critical enzyme in prostaglandin biosynthesis, are resistant to these rapid pathological effects of systemic inflammasome activation by either flagellin or anthrax lethal toxin. Inflammasome-dependent biosynthesis of eicosanoids is mediated by the activation of cytosolic phospholipase A(2) in resident peritoneal macrophages, which are specifically primed for the production of eicosanoids by high expression of eicosanoid biosynthetic enzymes. Our results therefore identify eicosanoids as a previously unrecognized cell-type-specific signalling output of the inflammasome with marked physiological consequences in vivo.
    Nature 08/2012; 490(7418):107-11. · 38.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Four core structures capable of providing sub-nanomolar inhibitors of anthrax lethal factor (LF) were evaluated by comparing the potential for toxicity, physicochemical properties, in vitro ADME profiles, and relative efficacy in a rat lethal toxin (LT) model of LF intoxication. Poor efficacy in the rat LT model exhibited by the phenoxyacetic acid series (3) correlated with low rat microsome and plasma stability. Specific molecular interactions contributing to the high affinity of inhibitors with a secondary amine in the C2-side chain were revealed by X-ray crystallography.
    Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry letters 03/2012; 22(6):2242-6. · 2.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: NOD-like receptor (NLR) proteins (Nlrps) are cytosolic sensors responsible for detection of pathogen and danger-associated molecular patterns through unknown mechanisms. Their activation in response to a wide range of intracellular danger signals leads to formation of the inflammasome, caspase-1 activation, rapid programmed cell death (pyroptosis) and maturation of IL-1β and IL-18. Anthrax lethal toxin (LT) induces the caspase-1-dependent pyroptosis of mouse and rat macrophages isolated from certain inbred rodent strains through activation of the NOD-like receptor (NLR) Nlrp1 inflammasome. Here we show that LT cleaves rat Nlrp1 and this cleavage is required for toxin-induced inflammasome activation, IL-1 β release, and macrophage pyroptosis. These results identify both a previously unrecognized mechanism of activation of an NLR and a new, physiologically relevant protein substrate of LT.
    PLoS Pathogens 03/2012; 8(3):e1002638. · 8.14 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Anthrax lethal factor (LF) is the protease component of anthrax lethal toxin (LT). LT induces pyroptosis in macrophages of certain inbred mouse and rat strains, while macrophages from other inbred strains are resistant to the toxin. In rats, the sensitivity of macrophages to toxin-induced cell death is determined by the presence of an LF cleavage sequence in the inflammasome sensor Nlrp1. LF cleaves rat Nlrp1 of toxin-sensitive macrophages, activating caspase-1 and inducing cell death. Toxin-resistant macrophages, however, express Nlrp1 proteins which do not harbor the LF cleavage site. We report here that mouse Nlrp1b proteins are also cleaved by LF. In contrast to the situation in rats, sensitivity and resistance of Balb/cJ and NOD/LtJ macrophages does not correlate to the susceptibility of their Nlrp1b proteins to cleavage by LF, as both proteins are cleaved. Two LF cleavage sites, at residues 38 and 44, were identified in mouse Nlrp1b. Our results suggest that the resistance of NOD/LtJ macrophages to LT, and the inability of the Nlrp1b protein expressed in these cells to be activated by the toxin are likely due to polymorphisms other than those at the LF cleavage sites.
    PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(11):e49741. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A phase 1 study of a recombinant mutant protective antigen (rPA) vaccine was conducted in 186 healthy adults aged 18 to 45 years. Volunteers were randomized to receive one of three formulations of rPA (formalin treated, alum adsorbed, or both), in 10- or 20-μg dosages each, or the licensed vaccine, AVA. Three injections were given at 2-month intervals and a 4th 1 year after the 3rd. Vaccinees were examined at the clinic once following each injection, at 48 to 72 h postinjection. Adverse reactions were recorded in diaries for 7 days. Sera were collected before each injection and 1 week after the 1st, 2 weeks after the 3rd and 4th, and 1 year after the 4th. Serum anti-PA IgG was assayed by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and toxin neutralization assay (TNA). All formulations at both dosages were safe and immunogenic, inducing booster responses, with the highest antibody levels following the 4th injection (354 to 732 μg/ml). The lowest levels were induced by the formalin-only-treated rPA; there was no statistical difference between levels induced by alum-adsorbed and formalin-treated/alum-adsorbed rPA or by the two dosages. The antibody levels declined in all groups during the 1-year intervals after the 3rd and 4th injections but less so during the 2nd year, after the 4th injection (fold decreases were 10 to 25 versus 3.4 to 7.0, P < 0.001). There were too few AVA recipients for statistical comparisons, but their antibody levels followed those of rPA. Anti-rPA measured by ELISA correlated with TNA titers (r = 0.97). These data support studying alum-adsorbed rPA in children.
    Clinical and vaccine Immunology: CVI 12/2011; 19(2):140-5. · 2.60 Impact Factor
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    Mahtab Moayeri, Inka Sastalla, Stephen H Leppla
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    ABSTRACT: Anthrax lethal toxin (LT), a major virulence determinant of anthrax disease, induces vascular collapse in mice and rats. LT activates the Nlrp1 inflammasome in macrophages and dendritic cells, resulting in caspase-1 activation, IL-1β and IL-18 maturation and a rapid cell death (pyroptosis). This review presents the current understanding of LT-induced activation of Nlrp1 in cells and its consequences for toxin-mediated effects in rodent toxin and spore challenge models.
    Microbes and Infection 12/2011; 14(5):392-400. · 2.92 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Bacterial lipoproteins play a crucial role in virulence in some gram-positive bacteria. However, the role of lipoprotein biosynthesis in Bacillus anthracis is unknown. We created a B. anthracis mutant strain altered in lipoproteins by deleting the lgt gene encoding the enzyme prolipoprotein diacylglyceryl transferase, which attaches the lipid anchor to prolipoproteins. (14)C-palmitate labelling confirmed that the mutant strain lacked lipoproteins, and hydrocarbon partitioning showed it to have decreased surface hydrophobicity. The anthrax toxin proteins were secreted from the mutant strain at nearly the same levels as from the wild-type strain. The TLR2-dependent TNF-α response of macrophages to heat-killed lgt mutant bacteria was reduced. Spores of the lgt mutant germinated inefficiently in vitro and in mouse skin. As a result, in a murine subcutaneous infection model, lgt mutant spores had markedly attenuated virulence. In contrast, vegetative cells of the lgt mutant were as virulent as those of the wild-type strain. Thus, lipoprotein biosynthesis in B. anthracis is required for full virulence in a murine infection model.
    Molecular Microbiology 11/2011; 83(1):96-109. · 5.03 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The anthrax edema toxin (ET) of Bacillus anthracis is composed of the receptor-binding component protective antigen (PA) and of the adenylyl cyclase catalytic moiety, edema factor (EF). Uptake of ET into cells raises intracellular concentrations of the secondary messenger cyclic AMP, thereby impairing or activating host cell functions. We report here on a new consequence of ET action in vivo. We show that in mouse models of toxemia and infection, serum PA concentrations were significantly higher in the presence of enzymatically active EF. These higher concentrations were not caused by ET-induced inhibition of PA endocytosis; on the contrary, ET induced increased PA binding and uptake of the PA oligomer in vitro and in vivo through upregulation of the PA receptors TEM8 and CMG2 in both myeloid and nonmyeloid cells. ET effects on protein clearance from circulation appeared to be global and were not limited to PA. ET also impaired the clearance of ovalbumin, green fluorescent protein, and EF itself, as well as the small molecule biotin when these molecules were coinjected with the toxin. Effects on injected protein levels were not a result of general increase in protein concentrations due to fluid loss. Functional markers for liver and kidney were altered in response to ET. Concomitantly, ET caused phosphorylation and activation of the aquaporin-2 water channel present in the principal cells of the collecting ducts of the kidneys that are responsible for fluid homeostasis. Our data suggest that in vivo, ET alters circulatory protein and small molecule pharmacokinetics by an as-yet-undefined mechanism, thereby potentially allowing a prolonged circulation of anthrax virulence factors such as EF during infection.
    Infection and immunity 11/2011; 80(2):529-38. · 4.21 Impact Factor

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