Ehrlichia Notch signaling induction promotes XIAP stability and inhibits apoptosis

La Nisha L. Patterson, Caitlan D. Byerly, Regina Solomon, Nicholas Pittner, Duc Cuong Bui, Jignesh Patel, Jere W. McBride

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ehrlichia chaffeensis has evolved multiple strategies to evade innate defenses of the mononuclear phagocyte. Recently, we reported the E. chaffeensis tandem repeat protein (TRP)120 effector functions as a Notch ligand mimetic and a ubiquitin ligase that degrades the nuclear tumor suppressor, F-box and WD repeat domain-containing 7, a negative regulator of Notch. The Notch intracellular domain (NICD) is known to inhibit apoptosis primarily by interacting with X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis protein (XIAP) to prevent degradation. In this study, we determined that E. chaffeensis activation of Notch signaling increases XIAP levels, thereby inhibiting apoptosis through both the intrinsic and executioner pathways. Increased NICD and XIAP levels were detected during E. chaffeensis infection and after TRP120 Notch ligand mimetic peptide treatment. Conversely, XIAP levels were reduced in the presence of Notch inhibitor DAPT. Cytoplasmic and nuclear colocalization of NICD and XIAP was observed during infection and a direct interaction was confirmed by co-immunoprecipitation. Procaspase levels increased temporally during infection, consistent with increased XIAP levels; however, knockdown (KD) of XIAP during infection significantly increased apoptosis and Caspase-3, -7, and -9 levels. Furthermore, treatment with SM-164, a second mitochondrial activator of caspases (Smac/DIABLO) antagonist, resulted in decreased procaspase levels and increased caspase activation, induced apoptosis, and significantly decreased infection. In addition, RNAi KD of XIAP also decreased infection and significantly increased apoptosis. Moreover, ectopic expression of TRP120 HECT Ub ligase catalytically defective mutant in HeLa cells decreased NICD and XIAP levels and increased caspase activation compared to HeLa cells with functional HECT Ub ligase catalytic activity (TRP120-WT). This investigation reveals a mechanism whereby E. chaffeensis modulates Notch signaling to stabilize XIAP and inhibit apoptosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2023


  • Ehrlichia chaffeensis
  • Notch signaling
  • XIAP
  • apoptosis
  • caspase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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