Editors' ChoiceMicrobiology

Mucosal Microbe Melee

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Sci. Signal.  18 Oct 2011:
Vol. 4, Issue 195, pp. ec292
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.4195ec292

Our mucosal surfaces are teeming with bacteria. These bacteria, or microbiota, shape the development and function of our immune systems, affect nutrient acquisition, and may contribute to a variety of diseases. Besides the relatively benign microbiota, our mucosal surfaces are also assaulted by various pathogenic microorganisms. Kane et al. show that the commensal microbiota in mice allowed the retrovirus mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV) to evade the immune system when mice are infected via the mucosal, but not parenteral, route. Viral evasion was achieved when MMTV co-opted the microbiota-derived molecule lipopolysaccharide. Kuss et al. studied poliovirus and retrovirus and show that, in both cases, the microbiota enhanced viral pathogenesis in infected mice and commensal-derived lipopolysaccharide helped give these viruses a boost. Thus, complex commensal-pathogen interactions may play a role in shaping the outcome of infections, particularly when infections occur on mucosal surfaces.

M. Kane, L. K. Case, K. Kopaskie, A. Kozlova, C. MacDearmid, A. V. Chervonsky, T. V. Golovkina, Successful transmission of a retrovirus depends on the commensal microbiota. Science 334, 245–249 (2011). [Abstract] [Full Text]

S. K. Kuss, G. T. Best, C. A. Etheredge, A. J. Pruijssers, J. M. Frierson, L. V. Hooper, T. S. Dermody, J. K. Pfeiffer, Intestinal microbiota promote enteric virus replication and systemic pathogenesis. Science 334, 249–252 (2011). [Abstract] [Full Text]