Nguyen-Chi, M., Phan, Q.T., Gonzalez, C., Dubremetz, J.F., Levraud, J.P., Lutfalla, G. (2014) Transient infection of the zebrafish notochord with E. coli induces chronic inflammation. Disease models & mechanisms. 7:871-882.
Zebrafish embryos and larvae are now well-established models in which to study infectious diseases. Infections with non-pathogenic Gram-negative Escherichia coli induce a strong and reproducible inflammatory response. Here, we study the cellular response of zebrafish larvae when E. coli bacteria are injected into the notochord and describe the effects. First, we provide direct evidence that the notochord is a unique organ that is inaccessible to leukocytes (macrophages and neutrophils) during the early stages of inflammation. Second, we show that notochord infection induces a host response that is characterised by rapid clearance of the bacteria, strong leukocyte recruitment around the notochord and prolonged inflammation that lasts several days after bacteria clearance. During this inflammatory response, il1b is first expressed in macrophages and subsequently at high levels in neutrophils. Moreover, knock down of il1b alters the recruitment of neutrophils to the notochord, demonstrating the important role of this cytokine in the maintenance of inflammation in the notochord. Eventually, infection of the notochord induces severe defects of the notochord that correlate with neutrophil degranulation occurring around this tissue. This is the first in vivo evidence that neutrophils can degranulate in the absence of a direct encounter with a pathogen. Persistent inflammation, neutrophil infiltration and restructuring of the extracellular matrix are defects that resemble those seen in bone infection and in some chondropathies. As the notochord is a transient embryonic structure that is closely related to cartilage and bone and that contributes to vertebral column formation, we propose infection of the notochord in zebrafish larvae as a new model to study the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying cartilage and bone inflammation.