Inhibition of tRNA synthetases induces persistence in chlamydia

Nathan D. Hatch, Scot P. Ouellette

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Chlamydia trachomatis is the leading cause of bacterial sexually transmitted infections, and Chlamydia pneumoniae causes community-acquired respiratory infections. In vivo, the host immune system will release gamma interferon (IFN-γ) to combat infection. IFN-γ activates human cells to produce the tryptophan (Trp)- catabolizing enzyme indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO). Consequently, there is a reduction in cytosolic Trp in IFN-γ-activated host cells. In evolving to obligate intracellular dependence, Chlamydia has significantly reduced its genome size and content, as it relies on the host cell for various nutrients. Importantly, C. trachomatis and C. pneumoniae are Trp auxotrophs and are starved for this essential nutrient when the human host cell is exposed to IFN-γ. To survive this, chlamydiae enter an alternative developmental state referred to as persistence. Chlamydial persistence is characterized by a halt in the division cycle, aberrant morphology, and, in the case of IFN-γ- induced persistence, Trp codon-dependent changes in transcription. We hypothesize that these changes in transcription are dependent on the particular amino acid starvation state. To investigate the chlamydial response mechanisms acting when other amino acids become limiting, we tested the efficacy of prokaryote-specific tRNA synthetase inhibitors, indolmycin and AN3365, to mimic starvation of Trp and leucine, respectively. We show that these drugs block chlamydial growth and induce changes in morphology and transcription consistent with persistence. Importantly, growth inhibition was reversed when the compounds were removed from the medium. With these data, we find that indolmycin and AN3365 are valid tools that can be used to mimic the persistent state independently of IFN-γ.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00943-19
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • Amino acid limitation
  • Amino acid starvation
  • Chlamydia
  • Codon-dependent transcription
  • IFN-γ
  • Leucine
  • Persistence
  • Tryptophan
  • tRNA synthetase inhibitors
  • tRNA synthetases

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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