Global transcriptomic profiling of pulmonary gene expression in an experimental murine model of Rickettsia conorii infection

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1 Scopus citations


Mediterranean spotted fever develops from an infection with Rickettsia conorii, an obligate intracellular, Gram-negative, endotheliotropic, and tick-transmitted bacterial pathogen, and is an acute, febrile illness that can progress to life-threatening complications if not diagnosed and treated early with effective antibiotics. Despite significant morbidity and mortality, little is known about changes in gene expression that determine the host responses during in vivo infection. We have investigated the transcriptional landscape of host lungs as a prominently affected organ system in an established murine model of infection by RNA-sequencing. Ingenuity pathway analysis resulted in the identification of 1332 differentially expressed genes and 292 upstream regulators. Notably, genes encoding for ubiquitin D, aconitate decarboxylase, antimicrobial peptides, calgranulins, cytokines and chemokines, and guanylate binding proteins were highly up-regulated, whereas those involved in hemoglobin biosynthesis and heme homeostasis were significantly down-regulated. Amongst response regulators, nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain-containing protein 2 and killer cell lectin-like receptors were differentially expressed, and gene clustering revealed eukaryotic initiation factor-2, oxidative phosphorylation, and ubiquitination as the predominantly activated biological pathways. Collectively, this first global transcriptomic profiling has identified R. conorii-induced regulation of novel genes and pathways in the host lungs, further in-depth investigation of which will strengthen our understanding of the pathogenesis of human rickettsioses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number204
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2019


  • Antimicrobial peptides
  • C3H/HeN mice
  • Calgranulins
  • Guanylate-binding proteins
  • Ingenuity pathway analysis
  • RNA sequencing
  • Rickettsia
  • Transcriptome
  • Ubiquitination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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