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Mycoplasma suis infection results endothelial cell damage and activation: new insight into the cell tropism and pathogenicity of hemotrophic mycoplasma

Albina Sokoli12, Katrin Groebel3, Katharina Hoelzle3, Werner M Amselgruber1, José M Mateos2, Mårten KJ Schneider4, Urs Ziegler2, Kathrin M Felder1 and Ludwig E Hoelzle1*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Environmental and Animal Hygiene and Veterinary Medicine (with Animal Clinic), University Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany

2 Center for Microscopy and Image Analysis, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

3 Institute of Veterinary Bacteriology, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

4 Laboratory of Vascular Immunology, Division of Internal Medicine, University Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

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Veterinary Research 2013, 44:6  doi:10.1186/1297-9716-44-6

Published: 11 February 2013


Hemotrophic mycoplasmas (HM) are highly specialized red blood cell parasites that cause infectious anemia in a variety of mammals, including humans. To date, no in vitro cultivation systems for HM have been available, resulting in relatively little information about the pathogenesis of HM infection. In pigs, Mycoplasma suis-induced infectious anemia is associated with hemorrhagic diathesis, and coagulation dysfunction. However, intravasal coagulation and subsequent consumption coagulopathy can only partly explain the sequence of events leading to hemorrhagic diathesis manifesting as cyanosis, petechial bleeding, and ecchymosis, and to disseminated coagulation. The involvement of endothelial activation and damage in M. suis-associated pathogenesis was investigated using light and electron microscopy, immunohistochemistry, and cell sorting. M. suis interacted directly with endothelial cells in vitro and in vivo. Endothelial activation, widespread endothelial damage, and adherence of red blood cells to the endothelium were evident in M. suis-infected pigs. These alterations of the endothelium were accompanied by hemorrhage, intravascular coagulation, vascular occlusion, and massive morphological changes within the parenchyma. M. suis biofilm-like microcolonies formed on the surface of endothelial cells, and may represent a putative persistence mechanism of M. suis. In vitro analysis demonstrated that M. suis interacted with the endothelial cytoskeletal protein actin, and induced actin condensation and activation of endothelial cells, as determined by the up-regulation of ICAM, PECAM, E-selectin, and P-selectin. These findings demonstrate an additional cell tropism of HM for endothelial cells and suggest that M. suis interferes with the protective function of the endothelium, resulting in hemorrhagic diathesis.