A three-dimensional lung cell model to leptospira virulence investigations

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Leptospirosis is a worldwide zoonosis and a serious public health threat in tropical and subtropical areas. The etiologic agents of leptospirosis are pathogenic spirochetes from the genus Leptospira. In severe cases, patients develop a pulmonary hemorrhage that is associated with high fatality rates. Several animal models were established for leptospirosis studies, such as rodents, dogs, and monkeys. Although useful to study the relationship among Leptospira and its hosts, the animal models still exhibit economic and ethical limitation reasons and do not fully represent the human infection. As an attempt to bridge the gap between animal studies and clinical information from patients, we established a three-dimensional (3-D) human lung cell culture for Leptospira infection. We show that Leptospira is able to efficiently infect the cell lung spheroids and also to infiltrate in deeper areas of the cell aggregates. The ability to infect the 3-D lung cell aggregates was time-dependent. The 3-D spheroids infection occurred up to 120 h in studies with two serovars, Canicola and Copenhageni. We standardized the number of bacteria in the initial inoculum for infection of the spheroids and we also propose two alternative culture media conditions. This new approach was validated by assessing the expression of three genes of Leptospira related to virulence and motility. The transcripts of these genes increased in both culture conditions, however, in higher rates and earlier times in the 3-D culture. We also assessed the production of chemokines by the 3-D spheroids before and after Leptospira infection, confirming induction of two of them, mainly in the 3-D spheroids. Chemokine CCL2 was expressed only in the 3-D cell culture. Increasing of this chemokine was observed previously in infected animal models. This new approach provides an opportunity to study the interaction of Leptospira with the human lung epithelium in vitro.
Campos CL, Gomes LR, Covarrubias AE., Kato EE, Souza GG., Vasconcellos SA., et al. A three-dimensional lung cell model to leptospira virulence investigations. Curr. Microbiol.. 2022 Jan; 79:57. doi:10.1007/s00284-021-02720-5.
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