Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Microbiology & Immunology

First Advisor

Jason Carlyon


Anaplasma phagocytophilum is an obligate intracellular bacterium that infects neutrophils to cause the emerging tick-transmitted disease, human granulocytic anaplasmosis (HGA). Following entry, the pathogen replicates within a host cell-derived vacuole that fails to mature along the endocytic pathway, does not acidify, and does not fuse with lysosomes. Selective fusogenicity is prototypical of many vacuole-adapted pathogens and has been attributed, at least in part, to pathogen modification of the vacuolar inclusion membrane and/or to selective recruitment or exclusion of host trafficking regulators. As a result, the A. phagocytophilum-occupied vacuolar membrane (AVM) provides a unique interface to study the host-pathogen interactions critical to A. phagocytophilum intracellular survival. Diverse vacuole-adapted pathogens; including Chlamydia, Legionella, and Salmonella; selectively recruit host Rab GTPases to their vacuolar membranes to establish replicative permissive niches within their host cells. Rab GTPases coordinate many aspects of endocytic and exocytic cargo delivery. We determined that the A. phagocytophilum-occupied vacuole (ApV) selectively recruits a subset of fluorescently-tagged Rabs that are predominantly associated with recycling endosomes. Another emerging theme among vacuole-adapted pathogens is the ability to hijack ubiquitin machinery to modulate host cellular processes. Mono- and polyubiquitination differentially dictate the subcellular localization, activity, and fate of protein substrates. Monoubiquitination directs membrane traffic from the plasma membrane to the endosome and has been shown to promote autophagy. We show that monoubiquitinated proteins decorate the AVM during infection of promyelocytic HL-60 cells, endothelial RF/6A cells, and to a lesser extent, embryonic tick ISE6 cells. Importantly, tetracycline treatment concomitantly promotes loss of the recycling endosome-associated GFP-Rabs and ubiquitinated proteins and acquisition of the late endosomal marker, Rab7, and lysosomal marker, LAMP-1, implicating bacterial-derived proteins in the ApV's altered fusogenicity. Therefore, we rationalized that A. phagocytophilum-encoded proteins that associate with the AVM may establish interactions with the host cell that are important for intracellular survival. By focusing on A. phagocytophilum proteins that are induced during host infection, we identified the first two bacterial-encoded proteins -- APH_1387 and APH_0032 -- that modify the AVM. Although functional studies are hindered by the lack of a system to genetically manipulate Anaplasma, the pathobiological roles of APH_1387 and APH_0032 are likely unique, as both proteins exhibit very little or no homology with any previously described protein. APH_1387 and APH_0032 are present at the cytoplasmic face of the AVM, therefore they likely interact with host proteins. We demonstrate that ectopic expression of APH_1387 and APH_0032 inhibits the ApV development in A. phagocytophilum infected cells. The results presented in this dissertation contribute to our understanding of how A. phagocytophilum modifies the vacuolar membrane in which it resides to establish a safe haven and evade lysosomal degradation.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

December 2011

Available for download on Monday, December 13, 2021