Characterizing the intracellular distribution of metabolites in intact Chlamydia-infected cells by Raman and two-photon microscopy


David M. Ojcius: 0000-0003-1461-4495

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Microbes and Infection









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Chlamydia species are obligate intracellular pathogens that proliferate only within infected cells. Currently, there are no known techniques or systems that can probe the spatial distribution of metabolites of interest within intact Chlamydia-infected cells. Here we investigate the ability of Raman microscopy to probe the chemical composition of different compartments (nucleus, inclusion, and cytoplasm) of Chlamydia trachomatis-infected epithelial cells. The overall intensity of the Raman spectrum is greatest in the inclusions and lowest in the cytoplasm in fixed cells. Difference spectra generated by normalizing to the intensity of the strong 1004 cm−1 phenylalanine line show distinct differences among the three compartments. Most notably, the concentrations of adenine are greater in both the inclusions and the nucleus than in the cytoplasm, as seen by Raman microscopy. The source of the adenine was explored through a complementary approach, using two-photon microscopy imaging. Autofluorescence measurements of living, infected cells show that the adenine-containing molecules, NAD(P)H and FAD, are present mainly in the cytoplasm, suggesting that these molecules are not the source of the additional adenine signal in the nucleus and inclusions. Experiments of infected cells stained with a DNA-binding dye, Hoechst 33258, reveal that most of the DNA is present in the nucleus and the inclusions, suggesting that DNA/RNA is the main source of the additional Raman adenine signal in the nucleus and inclusions. Thus, Raman and two-photon microscopy are among the few non-invasive methods available to investigate cells infected with Chlamydia and, together, should also be useful for studying infection by other intracellular pathogens that survive within intracellular vacuoles.