Mitogenic Effect of Bartonella bacilliformis on Human Vascular Endothelial Cells and Involvement of GroEL

Michael F. Minnick, Laura S. Smitherman, D. Scott Samuels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Bartonellae are bacterial pathogens for a wide variety of mammals. In humans, bartonellosis can result in angioproliferative lesions that are potentially life threatening to the patient, including bacillary angiomatosis, bacillary peliosis, and verruga peruana. The results of this study show that Bartonella bacilliformis, the agent of Oroya fever and verruga peruana, produces a proteinaceous mitogen for human vascular endothelial cells (HUVECs) that acts in a dose-dependent fashion in vitro with maximal activity at ≥72 h of exposure and results in a 6-to 20-fold increase in cell numbers relative to controls. The mitogen increases bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) incorporation into HUVECs by almost twofold relative to controls. The mitogen is sensitive to heat and trypsin but is not affected by the lipopolysaccharide inhibitor polymyxin B. The mitogen does not affect caspase 3 activity in HUVECs undergoing serum starvation-induced apoptosis. The Bartonella mitogen was found in bacterial culture supernatants, the soluble cell lysate fraction, and, to a lesser degree, in insoluble cell fractions of the bacterium. In contrast, soluble cell lysate fractions from closely related B. henselae, although possessing significant mitogenicity for HUVECs, resulted in only about a twofold increase in cell numbers. Biochemical and immunological analyses identified GroEL as a participant in the observed HUVEC mitogenicity. A B. bacilliformis strain containing the intact groES-groEL operon on a multicopy plasmid was generated and used to demonstrate a correlation between HUVEC mitogenicity and GroEL levels in the lysate (r2 = 0.85). Antiserum to GroEL significantly inhibited mitogenicity of the lysate. Data also show that GroEL is located in the soluble and insoluble fractions (including inner and outer membranes) of the cell and is actively secreted by B. bacilliformis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6933-6942
Number of pages10
JournalInfection and Immunity
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2003


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