Salmonella species are among the world’s most prevalent pathogens. Because the cell wall interfaces with the host, we designed a lipidomics approach to reveal pathogen-specific cell wall compounds. Among the molecules differentially expressed between Salmonella Paratyphi and S. Typhi, we focused on lipids that are enriched in S. Typhi, because it causes typhoid fever. We discovered a previously unknown family of trehalose phospholipids, 6,6′-diphosphatidyltrehalose (diPT) and 6-phosphatidyltrehalose (PT). Cardiolipin synthase B (ClsB) is essential for PT and diPT but not for cardiolipin biosynthesis. Chemotyping outperformed clsB homology analysis in evaluating synthesis of diPT. DiPT is restricted to a subset of Gram-negative bacteria: large amounts are produced by S. Typhi, lower amounts by other pathogens, and variable amounts by Escherichia coli strains. DiPT activates Mincle, a macrophage activating receptor that also recognizes mycobacterial cord factor (6,6′-trehalose dimycolate). Thus, Gram-negative bacteria show convergent function with mycobacteria. Overall, we discovered a previously unknown immunostimulant that is selectively expressed among medically important bacterial species.
CD1c is expressed with high density on human dendritic cells (DCs) and B cells, yet its antigen presentation functions are the least well understood among CD1 family members. Using a CD1c-reactive T cell line (DN6) to complete an organism-wide survey of M. tuberculosis lipids, we identified C32 phosphomycoketide (PM) as a previously unknown molecule and a CD1c-presented antigen. CD1c binding and presentation of mycoketide antigens absolutely required the unusual, mycobacteria-specific lipid branching patterns introduced by polyketide synthase 12 ( pks12 ). Unexpectedly, one TCR responded to diversely glycosylated and unglycosylated forms of mycoketide when presented by DCs and B cells. Yet cell-free systems showed that recognition was mediated only by the deglycosylated phosphoantigen. These studies identify antigen processing of a natural bacterial antigen in the human CD1c system, indicating that cells act on glycolipids to generate a highly simplified neoepitope composed of a sugar-free phosphate anion. Using knowledge of this processed antigen, we generated human CD1c tetramers, and demonstrate that CD1c–PM complexes stain T cell receptors (TCRs), providing direct evidence for a ternary interaction among CD1c-lipid-TCR. Furthermore, PM-loaded CD1c tetramers detect fresh human T cells from peripheral blood, demonstrating a polyclonal response to PM antigens in humans ex vivo.