The bacterium Mycoplasma agalactiae is responsible for contagious agalactia (CA) in small domestic ruminants, a syndrome listed by the World Organization for Animal Health and responsible for severe damage to the dairy industry. Recently, we frequently isolated this pathogen from lung lesions of ibexes during a mortality episode in the French Alps. This situation was unusual in terms of host specificity and tissue tropism, raising the question of M. agalactiae emergence in wildlife. To address this issue, the ibex isolates were characterized using a combination of approaches that included antigenic profiles, molecular typing, optical mapping, and whole-genome sequencing. Genome analyses showed the presence of a new, large prophage containing 35 coding sequences (CDS) that was detected in most but not all ibex strains and has a homolog in Mycoplasma conjunctivae, a species causing keratoconjunctivitis in wild ungulates. This and the presence in all strains of large integrated conjugative elements suggested highly dynamic genomes. Nevertheless, M. agalactiae strains circulating in the ibex population were shown to be highly related, most likely originating from a single parental clone that has also spread to another wild ungulate species of the same geographical area, the chamois. These strains clearly differ from strains described in Europe so far, including those found nearby, before CA eradication a few years ago. While M. agalactiae pathogenicity in ibexes remains unclear, our data showed the emergence of atypical strains in Alpine wild ungulates, raising the question of a role for the wild fauna as a potential reservoir of pathogenic mycoplasmas.
Mycoplasma agalactiae, the etiological agent of contagious agalactia of small ruminants, has a family of related genes (avg genes) which encode surface lipoprotein antigens that undergo phase variation. A series of 13 M. agalactiae clonal isolates, obtained from one chronically infected animal over a period of 7 months, were found to undergo major rearrangement events within the avg genomic locus. We show that these rearrangements regulate the phase-variable expression of individual avg genes. Northern blot analysis and reverse transcription-PCR showed that only one avg gene is transcribed, while the other avg genes are transcriptionally silent. Sequence analysis and primer extension experiments with two M. agalactiae clonal isolates showed that a specific 182-bp avg 5′ upstream region (avg-B2) that is present as a single chromosomal copy serves as an active promoter and exhibits a high level of homology with the vsp promoter of the bovine pathogen Mycoplasma bovis. PCR analysis showed that each avg gene is associated with the avg-B2 promoter in a subpopulation of cells that is present in each subclone. Multiple sequence-specific sites for DNA recombination (vis-like), which are presumably recognized by site-specific recombinase, were identified within the conserved avg 5′ upstream regions of all avg genes and were found to be identical to the recombination sites of the M. bovis vsp locus. In addition, a gene encoding a member of the integrase family of tyrosine site-specific recombinases was identified adjacent to the variable avg locus. The molecular genetic basis for avg phase-variable expression appears to be mediated by site-specific DNA inversions occurring in vivo that allow activation of a silent avg gene by promoter addition. A model for the control of avg genes is proposed.
Contagious Agalactia (CA) is one of the major animal health problems in small ruminants because of its economic significance. Currently, four Mycoplasma spp. have been associated with this syndrome: M. agalactiae, M. mycoides subsp. capri, M. capricolum subsp. capricolum and M. putrefaciens. Their presence has been evaluated in several studies conducted in CA-endemic countries. However, previous Spanish studies have been focused on caprine CA, and there is a knowledge gap regarding which Mycoplasma species are present in sheep flocks from Spain, which has the second highest number of sheep amongst the 27 European Union member states. Consequently, we investigated the presence and geographic distribution of the four CA-causing mycoplasmas in Spanish dairy sheep farms. This is the first time such an investigation has been performed.
Three hundred thirty nine out of 922 sheep flocks were positive for M. agalactiae by real time PCR (36.8%) and 85 by microbiological identification (9.2%). Interestingly, all 597 milk samples assessed for the presence of M. mycoides subsp. capri, M. capricolum subsp. capricolum and M. putrefaciens tested negative. To evaluate the intermittent excretion of the pathogen in milk, we sampled 391 additional farms from 2 to 5 times, resulting that in 26.3% of the cases a previously positive farm tested negative in a later sampling.
M. agalactiae was the only Mycoplasma species detected in the study area showing a high frequency of presence and wide distribution. Therefore, the establishment of a permanent surveillance network is advantageous, as well as the implementation of control and prevention measures to hinder the dissemination of M. agalactiae and to prevent the entrance of other Mycoplasma species.
Mycoplasma agalactiae; Contagious agalactia; Real time PCR; Sheep; Dairy; Spain
Stable mycoplasma antigens for the indirect hemagglutination test (IHA) were prepared employing glutaraldehyde treated sheep erythrocytes sensitized with Mycoplasma agalactiae subsp. bovis and Mycoplasma bovigenitalium antigens. Employing these antigens mycoplasma antibodies were detected in sera from cattle which had mastitic symptoms due to natural infection with either M. agalactiae subsp. bovis or M. bovigenitalium. A total of 200 cows from four herds were examined at varying intervals for the presence of M. agalactiae subsp. bovis and for the detection of antibody using growth inhibition and IHA tests. Mycoplasmas were isolated from 37 animals. Growth inhibiting antibody was detected from 56 of the 200 animals. In the IHA tests, antibody titer greater than or equal to 1:80 were detected in 148 animals, 76 of these having antibody titers greater than or equal to 1:160, while sera of 116 normal control animals had no growth inhibiting antibody and none had IHA antibody titers greater than 1:40. M. bovigenitalium was isolated from the milk of three of 26 animals in a fifth herd during an outbreak of mastitis. Growth inhibiting antibodies were demonstrated in the sera of ten of the 26 animals. However, the IHA test detected antibody titers of greater than or equal to 1:160 in 13 animals and of 1:80 in one of the 26 animals. To determine the specificity of the IHA tests, M. agalactiae subsp. bovis and M. bovigenitalium antigens were reacted with rabbit hyperimmune typing sera produced against 12 species of bovine mycoplasmatales. Homologous antisera showed IHA antibody titers of 1:1280 and 1:2560 against M. agalactiae subsp. bovis and M. bovigenitalium respectively, whereas heterologous antisera showed IHA antibody titers of less than or equal to 1:20. Also eight type-specific bovine antisera were reacted with M agalactiae subsp. bovis and M. bovigenitalium antigens in homologous and heterologous tests. Homoogous reactions showed IHA antibody titers greater than or equal to 1:320, whereas heterologous reactions showed IHA titers of less than or equal to 1:20. This IHA test promises to be useful for the detection of bovine mycoplasma antibodies in sera from cattle infected with M. agalactiae subsp. bovis or M. bovigenitalium. Thes test is sensitive, reproducible and specific and the technique is relatively simple and rapid. The antigens were stable for at least seven months.
Mycoplasmas are commonly described as the simplest self-replicating organisms, whose evolution was mainly characterized by genome downsizing with a proposed evolutionary scenario similar to that of obligate intracellular bacteria such as insect endosymbionts. Thus far, analysis of mycoplasma genomes indicates a low level of horizontal gene transfer (HGT) implying that DNA acquisition is strongly limited in these minimal bacteria. In this study, the genome of the ruminant pathogen Mycoplasma agalactiae was sequenced. Comparative genomic data and phylogenetic tree reconstruction revealed that ∼18% of its small genome (877,438 bp) has undergone HGT with the phylogenetically distinct mycoides cluster, which is composed of significant ruminant pathogens. HGT involves genes often found as clusters, several of which encode lipoproteins that usually play an important role in mycoplasma–host interaction. A decayed form of a conjugative element also described in a member of the mycoides cluster was found in the M. agalactiae genome, suggesting that HGT may have occurred by mobilizing a related genetic element. The possibility of HGT events among other mycoplasmas was evaluated with the available sequenced genomes. Our data indicate marginal levels of HGT among Mycoplasma species except for those described above and, to a lesser extent, for those observed in between the two bird pathogens, M. gallisepticum and M. synoviae. This first description of large-scale HGT among mycoplasmas sharing the same ecological niche challenges the generally accepted evolutionary scenario in which gene loss is the main driving force of mycoplasma evolution. The latter clearly differs from that of other bacteria with small genomes, particularly obligate intracellular bacteria that are isolated within host cells. Consequently, mycoplasmas are not only able to subvert complex hosts but presumably have retained sexual competence, a trait that may prevent them from genome stasis and contribute to adaptation to new hosts.
Mycoplasmas are cell wall–lacking prokaryotes that evolved from ancestors common to Gram-positive bacteria by way of massive losses of genetic material. With their minimal genome, mycoplasmas are considered to be the simplest free-living organisms, yet several species are successful pathogens of man and animal. In this study, we challenged the commonly accepted view in which mycoplasma evolution is driven only by genome down-sizing. Indeed, we showed that a significant amount of genes underwent horizontal transfer among different mycoplasma species that share the same ruminant hosts. In these species, the occurrence of a genetic element that can promote DNA transfer via cell-to-cell contact suggests that some mycoplasmas may have retained or acquired sexual competence. Transferred genes were found to encode proteins that are likely to be associated with mycoplasma–host interactions. Sharing genetic resources via horizontal gene transfer may provide mycoplasmas with a means for adapting to new niches or to new hosts and for avoiding irreversible genome erosion.
Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization–time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) recently emerged as a technology for the identification of bacteria. In this study, we aimed to evaluate its applicability to human and ruminant mycoplasmal identification, which can be demanding and time-consuming when using phenotypic or molecular methods. In addition, MALDI-TOF MS was tested as a subtyping tool for certain species. A total of 29 main spectra (MSP) from 10 human and 13 ruminant mycoplasma (sub)species were included in a mycoplasma MSP database to complete the Bruker MALDI Biotyper database. After broth culture and protein extraction, MALDI-TOF MS was applied for the identification of 119 human and 143 ruminant clinical isolates that were previously identified by antigenic or molecular methods and for subcultures of 73 ruminant clinical specimens that potentially contained several mycoplasma species. MALDI-TOF MS resulted in accurate (sub)species-level identification with a score of ≥1.700 for 96% (251/262) of the isolates. The phylogenetically closest (sub)species were unequivocally distinguished. Although mixtures of the strains were reliably detected up to a certain cellular ratio, only the predominant species was identified from the cultures of polymicrobial clinical specimens. For typing purposes, MALDI-TOF MS proved to cluster Mycoplasma bovis and Mycoplasma agalactiae isolates by their year of isolation and genome profiles, respectively, and Mycoplasma pneumoniae isolates by their adhesin P1 type. In conclusion, MALDI-TOF MS is a rapid, reliable, and cost-effective method for the routine identification of high-density growing mycoplasmal species and shows promising prospects for its capacity for strain typing.
We evaluated the capacity of the Mycoplasma agalactiae p40 gene as a diagnostic marker for contagious agalactia in sheep by quantitative real-time PCR. The p40 gene encodes an immunodominant adhesin that plays a key role in cytoadhesion of M. agalactiae. The assay was 100% specific, with an analytical sensitivity of 1 genome equivalent (GE), a quantification that is highly linear (R2 > 0.992) and efficient (PCR efficiency, >0.992) over a 6-log dynamic range, down to 10 GE. We evaluated the capacity of the assay to detect Mycoplasma agalactiae in 797 milk samples (373 raw sheep milk samples from refrigerated tanks of different farms and 424 milk samples from individual sheep of a flock positive for M. agalactiae). In parallel, we also tested the samples by using microbiological isolation coupled with microscopy identification and by a PCR method recommended by the World Organization for Animal Health. While our assay was able to detect 57 (15.28%) positive samples of the 373 milk samples from different farms, identification by microbiological isolation coupled with microscopy detected only 36 (9.65%) samples, and the conventional PCR detected 31 (8.31%) samples. These findings showed that our assay based on the p40 gene is more specific and sensitive for the detection of M. agalactiae in actual natural samples and, thus, can be a promising alternative tool for diagnosis and epidemiological studies of M. agalactiae infection.
Mycoplasma agalactiae is one of the causal agents of classical contagious agalactia (CA), a serious, economically important but neglected enzootic disease of small ruminants. It occurs in many parts of the world and most notably in the Mediterranean Basin. Following the infection common complications are septicaemia, mastitis, arthritis, pleurisy, pneumonia, and keratoconjunctivitis. Primary or tentative diagnosis of the organism is based upon clinical signs. Various serological tests, namely, growth precipitation, immunofluorescence, complement fixation test, haemagglutination inhibition, agglutination, immunodiffusion, enzyme immunoassays, immunoelectrophoresis, blotting techniques, and others, are available. Molecular tools seem to be much more sensitive, specific, and faster and help to differentiate various strains. The real-time PCR, multiplex PCR, quantitative PCR, PCR-RFLP, MLST, and gene probes, complementary to segments of chromosomal DNA or 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA), have strengthened the diagnosis of M. agalactiae. Both live attenuated and adjuvant (alum precipitated or saponified) inactivated vaccines are available with greater use of inactivated ones due to lack of side effects. The present review discusses the etiology, epidemiology, pathogenesis, and clinical signs of contagious agalactia in small ruminants along with trends and advances in its diagnosis, treatment, vaccination, prevention, and control strategies that will help in countering this disease.
The purpose of this study was to 1) estimate the herd prevalence of contagious mastitis pathogens in bulk milk from Prince Edward Island (PEI) dairy farms, 2) determine the association between bulk milk culture results and mean bulk milk somatic cell count (BMSCC), and 3) investigate the agreement of repeated bulk milk cultures. Three consecutive bulk milk samples were obtained at weekly intervals from all 258 PEI dairy herds and were cultured using routine laboratory methods. Cumulative prevalence of Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus agalactiae, and Mycoplasma spp. (M. bovis and M. alkalescens) was 74%, 1.6%, and 1.9%, respectively. Bulk milk somatic cell count of Staph. aureus-positive herds was higher than that of negative herds. Agreement for Staph. aureus isolation between 3 consecutive tests was moderate (kappa = 0.46). Mycoplasma bovis and M. alkalescens in bulk milk are being reported for the 1st time in PEI ever and in Canada since 1972.
The ‘Mycoplasma mycoides cluster’ comprises the ruminant pathogens Mycoplasma mycoides subsp. mycoides the causative agent of contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP), Mycoplasma capricolum subsp. capripneumoniae the agent of contagious caprine pleuropneumonia (CCPP), Mycoplasma capricolum subsp. capricolum, Mycoplasma leachii and Mycoplasma mycoides subsp. capri. CBPP and CCPP are major livestock diseases and impact the agricultural sector especially in developing countries through reduced food-supply and international trade restrictions. In addition, these diseases are a threat to disease-free countries. We used a multilocus sequence typing (MLST) approach to gain insights into the demographic history of and phylogenetic relationships among the members of the ‘M. mycoides cluster’. We collected partial sequences from seven housekeeping genes representing a total of 3,816 base pairs from 118 strains within this cluster, and five strains isolated from wild Caprinae. Strikingly, the origin of the ‘M. mycoides cluster’ dates to about 10,000 years ago, suggesting that the establishment and spread of the cluster coincided with livestock domestication. In addition, we show that hybridization and recombination may be important factors in the evolutionary history of the cluster.
•97 global ovine S. aureus isolates characterised using MLST and spa typing.•Majority of 261 global ovine isolates belong to one of three clonal complexes (CC).•One CC has spread across the New World; two are restricted to Europe and Africa.•Clonal complex spread matches the route and timing of sheep domestication.•Patterns of clonal diversification of sheep isolates differ from human isolates.
Staphylococcus aureus is an important pathogen of many species, including sheep, and impacts on both human and animal health, animal welfare, and farm productivity. Here we present the widest global diversity study of ovine-associated S. aureus to date. We analysed 97 S. aureus isolates from sheep and sheep products from the UK, Turkey, France, Norway, Australia, Canada and the USA using multilocus sequence typing (MLST) and spa typing. These were compared with 196 sheep isolates from Europe (n = 153), Africa (n = 28), South America (n = 14) and Australia (n = 1); 172 bovine, 68 caprine and 433 human S. aureus profiles. Overall there were 59 STs and 87 spa types in the 293 ovine isolates; in the 97 new ovine isolates there were 22 STs and 37 spa types, including three novel MLST alleles, four novel STs and eight novel spa types. Three main CCs (CC133, CC522 and CC700) were detected in sheep and these contained 61% of all isolates. Four spa types (t002, t1534, t2678 and t3576) contained 31% of all isolates and were associated with CC5, CC522, CC133 and CC522 respectively. spa types were consistent with MLST CCs, only one spa type (t1403) was present in multiple CCs. The three main ovine CCs have different but overlapping patterns of geographical dissemination that appear to match the location and timing of sheep domestication and selection for meat and wool production. CC133, CC522 and CC700 remained ovine-associated following the inclusion of additional host species. Ovine isolates clustered separately from human and bovine isolates and those from sheep cheeses, but closely with caprine isolates. As with cattle isolates, patterns of clonal diversification of sheep isolates differ from humans, indicative of their relatively recent host-jump.
S. aureus; Ovine; Caprine; MLST; spa typing; Global diversity
Bovine brucellosis is a major zoonosis, mainly caused by Brucella abortus, more rarely by Brucella melitensis. France has been bovine brucellosis officially-free since 2005 with no cases reported in domestic/wild ruminants since 2003. In 2012, bovine and autochthonous human cases due to B. melitensis biovar 3 (Bmel3) occurred in the French Alps. Epidemiological investigations implemented in wild and domestic ruminants evidenced a high seroprevalence (>45%) in Alpine ibex (Capra ibex); no cases were disclosed in other domestic or wild ruminants, except for one isolated case in a chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra). These results raised the question of a possible persistence/emergence of Brucella in wildlife. The purpose of this study was to assess genetic relationships among the Bmel3 strains historically isolated in humans, domestic and wild ruminants in Southeastern France, over two decades, by the MLVA-panel2B assay, and to propose a possible explanation for the origin of the recent bovine and human infections. Indeed, this genotyping strategy proved to be efficient for this microepidemiological investigation using an interpretation cut-off established for a fine-scale setting. The isolates, from the 2012 domestic/human outbreak harbored an identical genotype, confirming a recent and direct contamination from cattle to human. Interestingly, they clustered not only with isolates from wildlife in 2012, but also with local historical domestic isolates, in particular with the 1999 last bovine case in the same massif. Altogether, our results suggest that the recent bovine outbreak could have originated from the Alpine ibex population. This is the first report of a B. melitensis spillover from wildlife to domestic ruminants and the sustainability of the infection in Alpine ibex. However, this wild population, reintroduced in the 1970s in an almost closed massif, might be considered as a semi-domestic free-ranging herd. Anthropogenic factors could therefore account with the high observed intra-species prevalence.
The electrophoretic patterns of cell proteins in polyacrylamide gels were used for the study of several taxonomic problems in the Mycoplasmatales. The patterns of five Mycoplasma hominis strains showed marked differences that corresponded with their known serological and nucleic acid heterogeneity. The patterns of three M. mycoides var. mycoides strains isolated in different countries were essentially identical. The electrophoretic patterns of several caprine strains resembled those of M. mycoides var. mycoides, supporting their classification as M. mycoides var. capri. Strain B3, a swine isolate, accordingly was tentatively identified as M. mycoides var. capri. The bovine mastitis strain M. agalactiae var. bovis possessed a pattern basically similar to that of the goat mastitis strain M. agalactiae, supporting the inclusion of both strains in one species. Three M. pulmonis strains isolated from rats or tissue cultures showed nearly identical patterns. The pattern of the toxigenic M. neurolyticum (Sabin A) strain resembled but was not identical with that of the nontoxigenic PG28 strain. The avian Mycoplasma species, M. gallisepticum, M. meleagridis, M. synoviae, M. gallinarum, and M. iners showed easily distinguishable and specific patterns, supporting their present classification in different species. Several improvements in the electrophoretic technique are described, and its advantages and limitations as a taxonomic tool are discussed.
Mycoplasma agalactiae is the main cause of contagious agalactia, a serious disease of sheep and goats, which has major clinical and economic impacts. Previous studies of M. agalactiae have shown it to be unusually homogeneous and there are currently no available epidemiological techniques which enable a high degree of strain differentiation.
We have developed variable number tandem repeat (VNTR) analysis using the sequenced genome of the M. agalactiae type strain PG2. The PG2 genome was found to be replete with tandem repeat sequences and 4 were chosen for further analysis. VNTR 5 was located within the hypothetical protein MAG6170 a predicted lipoprotein. VNTR 14 was intergenic between the hypothetical protein MAG3350 and the hypothetical protein MAG3340. VNTR 17 was intergenic between the hypothetical protein MAG4060 and the hypothetical protein MAG4070 and VNTR 19 spanned the 5' end of the pseudogene for a lipoprotein MAG4310 and the 3' end of the hypothetical lipoprotein MAG4320.
We have investigated the genetic diversity of 88 M. agalactiae isolates of wide geographic origin using VNTR analysis and compared it with pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) analysis. Simpson's index of diversity was calculated to be 0.324 for PFGE and 0.574 for VNTR analysis. VNTR analysis revealed unexpected diversity within M. agalactiae with 9 different VNTR types discovered. Some correlation was found between geographical origin and the VNTR type of the isolates.
VNTR analysis represents a useful, rapid first-line test for use in molecular epidemiological analysis of M. agalactiae for outbreak tracing and control.
Mycoplasma agalactiae and Mycoplasma bovis both are responsible for respiratory conditions in sheep and goats. M. agalactiae is a major pathogen of sheep and goats and accounts for almost 90% of outbreaks of contagious agalactia syndrome in goats and almost 100% in sheep. On the basis of clinical signs and cultural, morphological, and biochemical characterization it is almost impossible to differentiate between both the species. Moreover, due to presence of genomic and proteomic similarity most of the time routine diagnostic tests fail to differentiate between them. Hence the present study was conducted to find out the protein profile of isolates of both the species by SDS-PAGE and to find out the cross-reacting as well as differentiating immunogenic proteins by Immunoblotting, which can be of immunoprophylactic as well as diagnostic values. The study revealed 6-7 major immunogenic cross-reactive proteins with the presence of two important non-cross-reacting species specific polypeptides particularly 25.50 and 24.54 kDa in M. agalactiae and M. bovis, respectively, that might be of diagnostic values.
The pneumonic lungs of 42 cattle from 26 feedlots were examined for the presence of mycoplasma, pathogenic bacteria and viruses. Four animals representative of two lots failed to yield mycoplasma. One of these yielded the virus of infectious bovine rhinotracheitis and Pasteurella hemolytica, the other yielded only P. P. multocida. Nine animals in eight lots yielded Mycoplasma sp.: five of these were M. bovirhinis, two were M. arginini and two were untypable. All of these animals yielded one or more of P. hemolytica, P. multiocida, infectious bovine rhinotracheitis virus or bovine virus diarrhea virus. Twenty-five of 29 animals in 16 lots yieled M. agalactiae subsp. bovis from lung tissues. The same organism was recovered from the arthritic joints of 12 of these animals. Eight of the 25 animals yielded no other pathogen and all of these had not received any treatment. Nine of the 25 M. agalactiae subsp. bovis positive animals also yielded one or more of P. hemolytica, P. multocida, Corynebacterium pyogenes or infectious bovine rhinotracheitis virus. Bacteriological and virological studies were not completed for the remaining eight of the 25 positive animals. In five lots of cattle which had not received medication for pneumonia and for arthritis only M. agalactiae subsp. bovis was recovered. Twenty-five grossly normal lungs obtained from normal cattle at the time of slaughter were cultured and all were negative. The possible role of M. agalactiae subsp. bovis in pneumonia and arthritis was discussed.
A strain-typing ELISA distinguishes bovine spongiform encephalopathy from other scrapie strains in small ruminants.
The bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) agent has been transmitted to humans, leading to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Sheep and goats can be experimentally infected by BSE and have been potentially exposed to natural BSE; however, whether BSE can be transmitted to small ruminants is not known. Based on the particular biochemical properties of the abnormal prion protein (PrPsc) associated with BSE, and particularly the increased degradation induced by proteinase K in the N terminal part of PrPsc, we have developed a rapid ELISA designed to distinguish BSE from other scrapie strains. This assay clearly discriminates experimental ovine BSE from other scrapie strains and was used to screen 260 transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE)–infected small ruminant samples identified by the French active surveillance network (2002/2003). In this context, this test has helped to identify the first case of natural BSE in a goat and can be used to classify TSE isolates based on the proteinase K sensitivity of PrPsc.
PrP; BSE; scrapie; ELISA; strain typing; research
As a first step toward the design of an epitope vaccine to prevent contagious agalactia, the strongly immunogenic 55-kDa protein of Mycoplasma agalactiae was studied and found to correspond to the AvgC protein encoded by the avgC gene. The avg genes of M. agalactiae, which encode four variable surface lipoproteins, display a significant homology to the vsp (variable membrane surface lipoproteins) genes of the bovine pathogen Mycoplasma bovis at their promoter region as well as their N-terminus-encoding regions. Some members of the Vsp family are known to be involved in cytoadhesion to host cells. In order to localize immunogenic peptides in the AvgC antigen, the protein sequence was submitted to epitope prediction analysis, and five sets of overlapping peptides, corresponding to five selected regions, were synthesized by Spot synthesis. Reactive peptides were selected by immunobinding assay with sera from infected sheep. The three most immunogenic epitopes were shown to be surface exposed by immunoprecipitation assays, and one of these was specifically recognized by all tested sera. Our study indicates that selected epitopes of the AvgC lipoprotein may be used to develop a peptide-based vaccine which is effective against M. agalactiae infection.
The phylogenetically related Mycoplasma capricolum subsp. capricolum and M. mycoides subsp. mycoides biotype Large Colony are two small-ruminant pathogens involved in contagious agalactia. Their respective contributions to clinical outbreaks are not well documented, because they are difficult to differentiate with the current diagnostic techniques. In order to identify DNA sequences specific to one taxon or the other, a suppression-subtractive hybridization approach was developed. DNA fragments resulting from the reciprocal subtraction of the type strains were used as probes on a panel of M. capricolum subsp. capricolum and M. mycoides subsp. mycoides biotype Large Colony strains to assess their intrataxon specificity. Due to a high intrataxon polymorphism and important cross-reactions between taxa, a single DNA fragment was shown to be specific for M. capricolum subsp. capricolum and to be present in all M. capricolum subsp. capricolum field isolates tested in this study. A PCR assay targeting the corresponding gene (simpA51) was designed that resulted in a 560-bp amplification only in M. capricolum subsp. capricolum and in M. capricolum subsp. capripneumoniae (the etiological agent of contagious caprine pleuropneumonia). simpA51 was further improved to generate a multiplex PCR (multA51) that allows the differentiation of M. capricolum subsp. capripneumoniae from M. capricolum subsp. capricolum. Both the simpA51 and multA51 assays accurately identify M. capricolum subsp. capricolum among other mycoplasmas, including all members of the M. mycoides cluster. simpA51 and multA51 PCRs are proposed as sensitive and robust tools for the specific identification of M. capricolum subsp. capricolum and M. capricolum subsp. capripneumoniae.
The Mycoplasma mycoides cluster consists of five species or subspecies that are ruminant pathogens. One subspecies, Mycoplasma mycoides subspecies mycoides Small Colony (MmmSC), is the causative agent of contagious bovine pleuropneumonia. Its very close relative, Mycoplasma mycoides subsp. capri (Mmc), is a more ubiquitous pathogen in small ruminants causing mastitis, arthritis, keratitis, pneumonia and septicaemia and is also found as saprophyte in the ear canal. To understand the genetics underlying these phenotypic differences, we compared the MmmSC PG1 type strain genome, which was already available, with the genome of an Mmc field strain (95010) that was sequenced in this study. We also compared the 95010 genome with the recently published genome of another Mmc strain (GM12) to evaluate Mmc strain diversity.
The MmmSC PG1 genome is 1,212 kbp and that of Mmc 95010 is ca. 58 kbp shorter. Most of the sequences present in PG1 but not 95010 are highly repeated Insertion Sequences (three types of IS) and large duplicated DNA fragments. The 95010 genome contains five types of IS, present in fewer copies than in PG1, and two copies of an integrative conjugative element. These mobile genetic elements have played a key role in genome plasticity, leading to inversions of large DNA fragments. Comparison of the two genomes suggested a marked decay of the PG1 genome that seems to be correlated with a greater number of IS. The repertoire of gene families encoding surface proteins is smaller in PG1. Several genes involved in polysaccharide metabolism and protein degradation are also absent from, or degraded in, PG1.
The genome of MmmSC PG1 is larger than that of Mmc 95010, its very close relative, but has less coding capacity. This is the result of large genetic rearrangements due to mobile elements that have also led to marked gene decay. This is consistent with a non-adaptative genomic complexity theory, allowing duplications or pseudogenes to be maintained in the absence of adaptive selection that would lead to purifying selection and genome streamlining over longer evolutionary times. These findings also suggest that MmmSC only recently adapted to its bovine host.
Mycoplasma agalactiae is an important pathogen of small ruminants, in which it causes contagious agalactia. It belongs to a large group of “minimal bacteria” with a small genome and reduced metabolic capacities that are dependent on their host for nutrients. Mycoplasma survival thus relies on intimate contact with host cells, but little is known about the factors involved in these interactions or in the more general infectious process. To address this issue, an assay based on goat epithelial and fibroblastic cells was used to screen a M. agalactiae knockout mutant library. Mutants with reduced growth capacities in cell culture were selected and 62 genomic loci were identified as contributing to this phenotype. As expected for minimal bacteria, “transport and metabolism” was the functional category most commonly implicated in this phenotype, but 50% of the selected mutants were disrupted in coding sequences (CDSs) with unknown functions, with surface lipoproteins being most commonly represented in this category. Since mycoplasmas lack a cell wall, lipoproteins are likely to be important in interactions with the host. A few intergenic regions were also identified that may act as regulatory sequences under co-culture conditions. Interestingly, some mutants mapped to gene clusters that are highly conserved across mycoplasma species but located in different positions. One of these clusters was found in a transcriptionally active region of the M. agalactiae chromosome, downstream of a cryptic promoter. A possible scenario for the evolution of these loci is discussed. Finally, several CDSs identified here are conserved in other important pathogenic mycoplasmas, and some were involved in horizontal gene transfer with phylogenetically distant species. These results provide a basis for further deciphering functions mediating mycoplasma-host interactions.
Nine caprine and ovine mycoplasma strains, said to be indistinguishable serologically from Mycoplasma mycoides subsp. mycoides (the causative organism of contagious bovine pleuropneumonia; CBPP) were examined in mice by (1) a mycoplasmaemia test, and (2) a cross-protection test. Of the nine strains, two from goats belonged to a small colony (SC) type; four caprine and three ovine strains belonged to a large colony (LC) type.
The two SC strains — like a single SC strain examined in an earlier study — were indistinguishable from genuine M. mycoides subsp. mycoides as isolated from CBPP. They produced mycoplasmaemia readily. In a cross-protection test, the two SC strains and a CBPP strain immunized completely against each other.
Of the seven LC strains, six — like six LC strains examined in an earlier study — were easily distinguished from genuine M. mycoides subsp. mycoides; except for one that was not tested, all were shown to lack the ability to produce mycoplasmaemia readily. In cross-protection tests all six strains immunized partially but not completely against a CBPP strain.
The seventh LC strain (Mankefår 2833) was exceptional: it produced mycoplasmaemia readily, resembling the SC strains in this respect. Like other LC strains, in cross-protection tests it protected only partially against a CBPP strain. Strain Mankefår 2833 was isolated in ca. 1965 by Brack from a Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia) in a German zoo.
The ability of Mankefår 2833 to produce mycoplasmaemia enabled it to be used as a challenge strain in cross-protection tests. For the purpose of such tests the collection of nine mycoplasma strains referred to above was augmented with six LC strains from an earlier study. Partial but not complete protection against Mankefår 2833 was produced by two caprine SC strains, one CBPP strain, and nine LC strains. Three further LC strains gave protection that may have been as strong as that produced by the homologous strain, but confirmatory experiments are needed. A strain of M. mycoides subsp. capri gave no protection against Mankefår 2833.
The evolution of mycoplasmas from a common ancestor with Firmicutes has been characterized not only by genome down-sizing but also by horizontal gene transfer between mycoplasma species sharing a common host. The mechanisms of these gene transfers remain unclear because our knowledge of the mycoplasma mobile genetic elements is limited. In particular, only a few plasmids have been described within the Mycoplasma genus.
We have shown that several species of ruminant mycoplasmas carry plasmids that are members of a large family of elements and replicate via a rolling-circle mechanism. All plasmids were isolated from species that either belonged or were closely related to the Mycoplasma mycoides cluster; none was from the Mycoplasma bovis-Mycoplasma agalactiae group. Twenty one plasmids were completely sequenced, named and compared with each other and with the five mycoplasma plasmids previously reported. All plasmids share similar size and genetic organization, and present a mosaic structure. A peculiar case is that of the plasmid pMyBK1 from M. yeatsii; it is larger in size and is predicted to be mobilizable. Its origin of replication and replication protein were identified. In addition, pMyBK1 derivatives were shown to replicate in various species of the M. mycoides cluster, and therefore hold considerable promise for developing gene vectors. The phylogenetic analysis of these plasmids confirms the uniqueness of pMyBK1 and indicates that the other mycoplasma plasmids cluster together, apart from the related replicons found in phytoplasmas and in species of the clade Firmicutes.
Our results unraveled a totally new picture of mycoplasma plasmids. Although they probably play a limited role in the gene exchanges that participate in mycoplasma evolution, they are abundant in some species. Evidence for the occurrence of frequent genetic recombination strongly suggests they are transmitted between species sharing a common host or niche.
Mycoplasma,Plasmid,Replication,Rep protein,Gene transfer,Evolution,Expression vector,Mycoplasma mycoides,Mycoplasma capricolum,Mycoplasma yeatsii
In this study the enzymatic activity of Mycoplasma agalactiae MAG_5040, a magnesium-dependent nuclease homologue to the staphylococcal SNase was characterized and its antigenicity during natural infections was established. A UGA corrected version of MAG_5040, lacking the region encoding the signal peptide, was expressed in Escherichia coli as a GST fusion protein. Recombinant GST-MAG_5040 exhibits nuclease activity similar to typical sugar-nonspecific endo- and exonucleases, with DNA as the preferred substrate and optimal activity in the presence of 20 mM MgCl2 at temperatures ranging from 37 to 45°C. According to in silico analyses, the position of the gene encoding MAG_5040 is consistently located upstream an ABC transporter, in most sequenced mycoplasmas belonging to the Mycoplasma hominis group. In M. agalactiae, MAG_5040 is transcribed in a polycistronic RNA together with the ABC transporter components and with MAG_5030, which is predicted to be a sugar solute binding protein by 3D modeling and homology search. In a natural model of sheep and goats infection, anti-MAG_5040 antibodies were detected up to 9 months post infection. Taking into account its enzymatic activity, MAG_5040 could play a key role in Mycoplasma agalactiae survival into the host, contributing to host pathogenicity. The identification of MAG_5040 opens new perspectives for the development of suitable tools for the control of contagious agalactia in small ruminants.