Pathogenic bacteria of the genus Bartonella can induce vasoproliferative lesions during infection. The underlying mechanisms are unclear, but involve secretion of an unidentified mitogenic factor. Here, we use functional transposon-mutant screening in Bartonella henselae to identify such factor as a pro-angiogenic autotransporter, called BafA. The passenger domain of BafA induces cell proliferation, tube formation and sprouting of microvessels, and drives angiogenesis in mice. BafA interacts with vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptor-2 and activates the downstream signaling pathway, suggesting that BafA functions as a VEGF analog. A BafA homolog from a related pathogen, Bartonella quintana, is also functional. Our work unveils the mechanistic basis of vasoproliferative lesions observed in bartonellosis, and we propose BafA as a key pathogenic factor contributing to bacterial spread and host adaptation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Physics and Astronomy(all)