Download Full Text (533 KB)


Background: The focus of the current studies was to determine the relationship between the molecular mechanisms interconnecting autophagy and apoptosis following Chlamydia pneumoniae infection in neuronal cells. Dysfunctions in apoptosis and autophagy have been implicated in the neurodegeneration associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Autophagy in AD pathogenesis has been shown to play a role in amyloid processing through the endosomal-lysosomal system. Apoptosis may contribute to the neuronal cell loss observed in AD; however, there is limited evidence of the apoptotic process proceeding to terminal completion. Although Aβ1-42 has been shown to induce apoptosis in neurons and may be an early factor in AD, our previous investigations demonstrated that neurons infected with Chlamydia pneumoniae are resistant to apoptosis, and that Aβ1-42 is induced following this infection. Thus, these studies address infection as an initiator/trigger or inhibitor for the processes of autophagy and apoptosis observed in Alzheimer’s disease. Methods: SKNMC neuronal cells obtained from ATCC were infected with the AR39 strain of Chlamydia pneumoniae at an MOI=1 for 24, 48, and 72hrs and were analyzed using Real-time PCR arrays from SABiosciences specific for autophagy and apoptosis genetic markers. Results: Some major genes associated with apoptosis such as BID, DAPK1, TP53, TP73 were down regulated by 72hrs post-infection. Genes associated with the regulation of autophagic vacuole formation such as ATG3, ATG4B, ATG4C, ATG9A, ATG9B, ATG12, IRGM, and BECN1 were up-regulated within 72hrs post-infection. With regards to genes involved with co-regulation of autophagy and apoptosis, BNIP3 was significantly up-regulated within 48-72hrs post-infection. Of the genes linking autophagosomes to lysosomes, FAM176A was up-regulated throughout 24-72hrs post-infection. Conclusions: Modulation of autophagy and apoptosis genes occurs in neuronal cells at 24, 48, and 72hrs post- infection with Chlamydia pneumoniae. These genetic changes lead to dysfunction in these basic cellular processes; dysfunction in these processes has been shown to contribute to the neuropathology of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. This work will allow future studies to further focus on the apoptotic and autophagic pathways to better understand how a pathogen such as Chlamydia pneumoniae plays a role in the development of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Publication Date



Bacterial Infections and Mycoses | Medical Biochemistry | Nervous System Diseases

Autophagy and apoptotic genes implicated in Alzheimer’s disease are modulated following infection of neuronal cells with Chlamydia pneumoniae