Type III secretion systems (T3SS) are essential for virulence in dozens of pathogens, but are not required for growth outside the host. Therefore, the T3SS of many bacterial species are under tight regulatory control. To increase our understanding of the molecular mechanisms behind T3SS regulation, we performed a transposon screen to identify genes important for T3SS function in the food-borne pathogen Yersinia pseudotuberculosis. We identified two unique transposon insertions in YPTB2860, a gene that displays 79% identity with the E. coli
iron-sulfur cluster regulator, IscR. A Y. pseudotuberculosis iscR in-frame deletion mutant (ΔiscR) was deficient in secretion of Ysc T3SS effector proteins and in targeting macrophages through the T3SS. To determine the mechanism behind IscR control of the Ysc T3SS, we carried out transcriptome and bioinformatic analysis to identify Y. pseudotuberculosis genes regulated by IscR. We discovered a putative IscR binding motif upstream of the Y. pseudotuberculosis yscW-lcrF operon. As LcrF controls transcription of a number of critical T3SS genes in Yersinia, we hypothesized that Yersinia IscR may control the Ysc T3SS through LcrF. Indeed, purified IscR bound to the identified yscW-lcrF promoter motif and mRNA levels of lcrF and 24 other T3SS genes were reduced in Y. pseudotuberculosis in the absence of IscR. Importantly, mice orally infected with the Y. pseudotuberculosis ΔiscR mutant displayed decreased bacterial burden in Peyer's patches, mesenteric lymph nodes, spleens, and livers, indicating an essential role for IscR in Y. pseudotuberculosis virulence. This study presents the first characterization of Yersinia IscR and provides evidence that IscR is critical for virulence and type III secretion through direct regulation of the T3SS master regulator, LcrF.
Bacterial pathogens use regulators that sense environmental cues to enhance their fitness. Here, we identify a transcriptional regulator in the human gut pathogen, Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, which controls a specialized secretion system essential for bacterial growth in mammalian tissues. This regulator was shown in other bacterial species to alter its activity in response to changes in iron concentration and oxidative stress, but has never been studied in Yersinia. Importantly, Y. pseudotuberculosis experiences large changes in iron bioavailability upon transit from the gut to deeper tissues and iron is a critical component in Yersinia virulence, as individuals with iron overload disorders have enhanced susceptibility to systemic Yersinia infections. Our work places this iron-modulated transcriptional regulator within the regulatory network that controls virulence gene expression in Y. pseudotuberculosis, identifying it as a potential new target for antimicrobial agents.
The first reported Far East scarlet-like fever (FESLF) epidemic swept the Pacific coastal region of Russia in the late 1950s. Symptoms of the severe infection included erythematous skin rash and desquamation, exanthema, hyperhemic tongue, and a toxic shock syndrome. The term FESLF was coined for the infection because it shares clinical presentations with scarlet fever caused by group A streptococci. The causative agent was later identified as Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, although the range of morbidities was vastly different from classical pseudotuberculosis symptoms. To understand the origin and emergence of the peculiar clinical features of FESLF, we have sequenced the genome of the FESLF-causing strain Y. pseudotuberculosis IP31758 and compared it with that of another Y. pseudotuberculosis strain, IP32953, which causes classical gastrointestinal symptoms. The unique gene pool of Y pseudotuberculosis IP31758 accounts for more than 260 strain-specific genes and introduces individual physiological capabilities and virulence determinants, with a significant proportion horizontally acquired that likely originated from Enterobacteriaceae and other soil-dwelling bacteria that persist in the same ecological niche. The mobile genome pool includes two novel plasmids phylogenetically unrelated to all currently reported Yersinia plasmids. An icm/dot type IVB secretion system, shared only with the intracellular persisting pathogens of the order Legionellales, was found on the larger plasmid and could contribute to scarlatinoid fever symptoms in patients due to the introduction of immunomodulatory and immunosuppressive capabilities. We determined the common and unique traits resulting from genome evolution and speciation within the genus Yersinia and drew a more accurate species border between Y. pseudotuberculosis and Y. pestis. In contrast to the lack of genetic diversity observed in the evolutionary young descending Y. pestis lineage, the population genetics of Y. pseudotuberculosis is more heterogenous. Both Y. pseudotuberculosis strains IP31758 and the previously sequenced Y. pseudotuberculosis strain IP32953 have evolved by the acquisition of specific plasmids and by the horizontal acquisition and incorporation of different genetic information into the chromosome, which all together or independently seems to potentially impact the phenotypic adaptation of these two strains.
We have analyzed the genome sequence of a Y. pseudotuberculosis isolate responsible for Far East scarlet-like fever (FESLF). FESLF leads to severe clinical manifestations, including scarlet-like skin rash, from which this illness gets its name, and, most importantly, a toxic shock syndrome not seen in common pseudotuberculosis infections. The aim of this study was to catalogue the genomic inventory and get insights in the origin and emergence of this disease. The genus Yersinia comprises two other pathogens that cause worldwide infections in humans and animals: Y. enterocolitica, like Y. pseudotuberculosis, causes gastrointestinal disorders, while Yersinia pestis is the causative agent of plague, also known as the “Black Death.” By comparing the genome of these three Yersinia species, we could identify several unique virulence determinants, many of which are known to trigger and modulate the host immune system response and may be intimately associated with the severe and atypical FESLF clinical presentations. We have shown that the reductive gene loss process that Y. pestis has undergone since emerging from the enteric pathogen Y. pseudotuberculosis is not as extensive as originally thought. On the other hand, our analysis indicates that gene acquisition is a major factor that influenced Y. pseudotuberculosis genome evolution.
Yersinia pseudotuberculosis binds to β1 integrin receptors, and uses the type III secretion proteins YopB and YopD to introduce pores and to translocate Yop effectors directly into host cells. Y. pseudotuberculosis lacking effectors that inhibit Rho GTPases, YopE and YopT, have high pore forming activity. Here, we present evidence that Y. pseudotuberculosis selectively modulates Rho activity to induce cellular changes that control pore formation and effector translocation. Inhibition of actin polymerization decreased pore formation and YopE translocation in HeLa cells infected with Y. pseudotuberculosis. Inactivation of Rho, Rac, and Cdc42 by treatment with Clostridium difficile toxin B inhibited pore formation and YopE translocation in infected HeLa cells. Expression of a dominant negative form of Rac did not reduce the uptake of membrane impermeable dyes in HeLa cells infected with a pore forming strain YopEHJT−. Similarly, the Rac inhibitor NSC23766 did not decrease pore formation or translocation, although it efficiently hindered Rac-dependent bacterial uptake. In contrast, C. botulinum C3 potently reduced pore formation and translocation, implicating Rho A, B, and/or C in the control of the Yop delivery. An invasin mutant (Y. pseudotuberculosis invD911E) that binds to β1 integrins, but inefficiently transduces signals through the receptors, was defective for YopE translocation. Interfering with the β1 integrin signaling pathway, by inhibiting Src kinase activity, negatively affected YopE translocation. Additionally, Y. pseudotuberculosis infection activated Rho by a mechanism that was dependent on YopB and on high affinity bacteria interaction with β1 integrin receptors. We propose that Rho activation, mediated by signals triggered by the YopB/YopD translocon and from engagement of β1 integrin receptors, stimulates actin polymerization and activates the translocation process, and that once the Yops are translocated, the action of YopE or YopT terminate delivery of Yops and prevents pore formation.
The type III secretion system (TTSS) is essential for the virulence of a number of Gram-negative human pathogens of enormous clinical significance. The molecular mechanisms by which TTSS effector proteins are translocated into the host cell are not well understood. The work presented here proposes a new model in which the enteropathogen Yersinia pseudotuberculosis manipulates the host cell machinery to control effector translocation. This involves activation of the host cell Rho GTPase by the cooperative action of adhesin-mediated high affinity binding to specific cell receptor molecules known as β1 integrins, and interaction of components of the TTSS with the host cell membrane. This molecular mechanism of controlling TTSS may not be restricted to Y. pseudotuberculosis and might take place during infection of host cells with other pathogens that encode homologues of Yersinia TTSS proteins. Our findings provide a good starting point to study the molecular nature of the complex interaction between bacterial pathogens bearing TTSSs and the host cell. Importantly, components that act by modulating the TTSS are potential targets for novel antimicrobials.
The human enteropathogen, Yersinia enterocolitica, is a significant link in the range of Yersinia pathologies extending from mild gastroenteritis to bubonic plague. Comparison at the genomic level is a key step in our understanding of the genetic basis for this pathogenicity spectrum. Here we report the genome of Y. enterocolitica strain 8081 (serotype 0:8; biotype 1B) and extensive microarray data relating to the genetic diversity of the Y. enterocolitica species. Our analysis reveals that the genome of Y. enterocolitica strain 8081 is a patchwork of horizontally acquired genetic loci, including a plasticity zone of 199 kb containing an extraordinarily high density of virulence genes. Microarray analysis has provided insights into species-specific Y. enterocolitica gene functions and the intraspecies differences between the high, low, and nonpathogenic Y. enterocolitica biotypes. Through comparative genome sequence analysis we provide new information on the evolution of the Yersinia. We identify numerous loci that represent ancestral clusters of genes potentially important in enteric survival and pathogenesis, which have been lost or are in the process of being lost, in the other sequenced Yersinia lineages. Our analysis also highlights large metabolic operons in Y. enterocolitica that are absent in the related enteropathogen, Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, indicating major differences in niche and nutrients used within the mammalian gut. These include clusters directing, the production of hydrogenases, tetrathionate respiration, cobalamin synthesis, and propanediol utilisation. Along with ancestral gene clusters, the genome of Y. enterocolitica has revealed species-specific and enteropathogen-specific loci. This has provided important insights into the pathology of this bacterium and, more broadly, into the evolution of the genus. Moreover, wider investigations looking at the patterns of gene loss and gain in the Yersinia have highlighted common themes in the genome evolution of other human enteropathogens.
The goal of this study was to catalogue all the genes encoded within the Y. enterocolitica genome to help us better understand how this bacterium and related bacteria cause different diseases. There are currently genome sequences (complete gene catalogues) available for two other members of this bacterial lineage, which cause dramatically different diseases: Y. pseudotuberculosis, like Y. enterocolitica, is a gut pathogen (enteropathogen) causing gastroenteritis in humans and animals. Yersinia pestis mostly resides within blood (circulating or in fleas following blood meals) and lymph tissue. It causes bubonic plague in humans and animals, and is historically known as “The Black Death.” A three-way comparison of these genomes revealed a patchwork of genes we have defined as being species- or disease-specific and genes that are common to all three Yersinia species. This has provided us with important information on shared gene functions that define the two enteropathogenic yersinias and those that differentiate them. This will help us to connect what we know about the Y. enterocolitica lifestyle within the gut to the disease it causes and its genetic makeup. We have also provided further evidence of gene-loss by Y. pestis as it has evolved from Y. pseudotuberculosis into a more acute systemic pathogen. Similar patterns of gene loss are seen in other important pathogens such as Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi.
Numerous microbial pathogens modulate or interfere with cell death pathways in cultured cells. However, the precise role of host cell death during in vivo infection remains poorly understood. Macrophages infected by pathogenic species of Yersinia typically undergo an apoptotic cell death. This is due to the activity of a Type III secreted effector protein, designated YopJ in Y. pseudotuberculosis and Y. pestis, and YopP in the closely related Y. enterocolitica. It has recently been reported that Y. enterocolitica YopP shows intrinsically greater capacity for being secreted than Y. pestis YopJ, and that this correlates with enhanced cytotoxicity observed for high virulence serotypes of Y. enterocolitica. The enzymatic activity and secretory capacity of YopP from different Y. enterocolitica serotypes have been shown to be variable. However, the underlying basis for differential secretion of YopJ/YopP, and whether reduced secretion of YopJ by Y. pestis plays a role in pathogenesis during in vivo infection, is not currently known. It has also been reported that similar to macrophages, Y. enterocolitica infection of dendritic cells leads to YopP-dependent cell death. We demonstrate here that in contrast to Y. enterocolitica, Y. pseudotuberculosis infection of bone marrow–derived dendritic cells does not lead to increased cell death. However, death of Y. pseudotuberculosis–infected dendritic cells is enhanced by ectopic expression of YopP in place of YopJ. We further show that polymorphisms at the N-terminus of the YopP/YopJ proteins are responsible for their differential secretion, translocation, and consequent cytotoxicity. Mutation of two amino acids in YopJ markedly enhanced both translocation and cytotoxicity. Surprisingly, expression of YopP or a hypersecreted mutant of YopJ in Y. pseudotuberculosis resulted in its attenuation in oral mouse infection. Complete absence of YopJ also resulted in attenuation of virulence, in accordance with previous observations. These findings suggest that control of cytotoxicity is an important virulence property for Y. pseudotuberculosis, and that intermediate levels of YopJ-mediated cytotoxicity are necessary for maximal systemic virulence of this bacterial pathogen.
The ability of bacterial pathogens to modulate death of infected host cells is an important virulence determinant. For pathogenic members of the genus Yersinia, the type III secreted effector protein YopJ/YopP is required for Yersinia-induced macrophage death. The YopJ protein is expressed by Y. pseudotuberculosis, while the ninety-four percent identical YopP protein is expressed by Y. enterocolitica. Y. enterocolitica infection also triggers YopP-dependent killing of dendritic cells, which are critical antigen presenting cells of the immune system. We demonstrate that in contrast to macrophages, dendritic cells are resistant to Y. pseudotuberculosis-mediated cytotoxicity. However, Y. pseudotuberculosis expressing YopP in place of YopJ was highly cytotoxic toward dendritic cells. This difference in cytotoxicity was attributable to a difference in the delivery of YopJ and YopP into mammalian cells. Furthermore, mutation of two amino acids at the N-terminus of YopJ enhanced its delivery and cytotoxicity. Remarkably, we found that enhancing the cytotoxicity of Y. pseudotuberculosis by expression of YopP led to its attenuation in a mouse model of Yersinia infection. This indicates that optimal virulence for a given pathogen requires careful regulation of virulence properties and highlights the potential evolutionary tradeoffs between cellular cytotoxicity and in vivo virulence.
Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis is generally regarded as an important animal pathogen that rarely infects humans. Clinical strains are occasionally recovered from human cases of lymphadenitis, such as C. pseudotuberculosis FRC41 that was isolated from the inguinal lymph node of a 12-year-old girl with necrotizing lymphadenitis. To detect potential virulence factors and corresponding gene-regulatory networks in this human isolate, the genome sequence of C. pseudotuberculosis FCR41 was determined by pyrosequencing and functionally annotated.
Sequencing and assembly of the C. pseudotuberculosis FRC41 genome yielded a circular chromosome with a size of 2,337,913 bp and a mean G+C content of 52.2%. Specific gene sets associated with iron and zinc homeostasis were detected among the 2,110 predicted protein-coding regions and integrated into a gene-regulatory network that is linked with both the central metabolism and the oxidative stress response of FRC41. Two gene clusters encode proteins involved in the sortase-mediated polymerization of adhesive pili that can probably mediate the adherence to host tissue to facilitate additional ligand-receptor interactions and the delivery of virulence factors. The prominent virulence factors phospholipase D (Pld) and corynebacterial protease CP40 are encoded in the genome of this human isolate. The genome annotation revealed additional serine proteases, neuraminidase H, nitric oxide reductase, an invasion-associated protein, and acyl-CoA carboxylase subunits involved in mycolic acid biosynthesis as potential virulence factors. The cAMP-sensing transcription regulator GlxR plays a key role in controlling the expression of several genes contributing to virulence.
The functional data deduced from the genome sequencing and the extended knowledge of virulence factors indicate that the human isolate C. pseudotuberculosis FRC41 is equipped with a distinct gene set promoting its survival under unfavorable environmental conditions encountered in the mammalian host.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa strain PA14 is an opportunistic human pathogen capable of infecting a wide range of organisms including the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. We used a non-redundant transposon mutant library consisting of 5,850 clones corresponding to 75% of the total and approximately 80% of the non-essential PA14 ORFs to carry out a genome-wide screen for attenuation of PA14 virulence in C. elegans. We defined a functionally diverse 180 mutant set (representing 170 unique genes) necessary for normal levels of virulence that included both known and novel virulence factors. Seven previously uncharacterized virulence genes (ABC transporters PchH and PchI, aminopeptidase PepP, ATPase/molecular chaperone ClpA, cold shock domain protein PA0456, putative enoyl-CoA hydratase/isomerase PA0745, and putative transcriptional regulator PA14_27700) were characterized with respect to pigment production and motility and all but one of these mutants exhibited pleiotropic defects in addition to their avirulent phenotype. We examined the collection of genes required for normal levels of PA14 virulence with respect to occurrence in P. aeruginosa strain-specific genomic regions, location on putative and known genomic islands, and phylogenetic distribution across prokaryotes. Genes predominantly contributing to virulence in C. elegans showed neither a bias for strain-specific regions of the P. aeruginosa genome nor for putatively horizontally transferred genomic islands. Instead, within the collection of virulence-related PA14 genes, there was an overrepresentation of genes with a broad phylogenetic distribution that also occur with high frequency in many prokaryotic clades, suggesting that in aggregate the genes required for PA14 virulence in C. elegans are biased towards evolutionarily conserved genes.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an opportunistic human pathogen that can also infect a wide range of model organisms, including the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. To identify P. aeruginosa genes that play key roles in the pathogenic process, we performed a screen for mutants that exhibited reduced ability to kill C. elegans using a previously constructed non-redundant library representing approximately 80% of the non-essential P. aeruginosa PA14 genes. We defined a functionally diverse set of 180 P. aeruginosa mutants (representing 170 unique genes) necessary for normal levels of virulence that included both known and novel virulence factors. The major contributors to P. aeruginosa virulence in the C. elegans infection model were not secretion systems or their corresponding effectors, but rather regulators (particularly ones that are involved in quorum sensing) and genes likely to play key roles in survival of P. aeruginosa within the host intestine. Moreover, these putative P. aeruginosa virulence genes are neither overrepresented in strain-specific regions nor in horizontally acquired genomic islands and furthermore tend to have orthologs that are widely distributed across sequenced prokaryotic species. These data underscore the diversity of pathways involved in virulence, and especially the importance of highly conserved genes for P. aeruginosa virulence in the C. elegans host model.
The sequencing of bacterial genomes has opened new perspectives for identification of targets for treatment of infectious diseases. We have identified a set of novel virulence-associated genes (vag genes) by comparing the genome sequences of six human pathogens that are known to cause persistent or chronic infections in humans: Yersinia pestis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Helicobacter pylori, Borrelia burgdorferi, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Treponema pallidum. This comparison was limited to genes annotated as hypothetical in the T. pallidum genome project. Seventeen genes with unknown functions were found to be conserved among these pathogens. Insertional inactivation of 14 of these genes generated nine mutants that were attenuated for virulence in a mouse infection model. Out of these nine genes, five were found to be specifically associated with virulence in mice as demonstrated by infection with Yersinia pseudotuberculosis in-frame deletion mutants. In addition, these five vag genes were essential only in vivo, since all the mutants were able to grow in vitro. These genes are broadly conserved among bacteria. Therefore, we propose that the corresponding vag gene products may constitute novel targets for antimicrobial therapy and that some vag mutants could serve as carrier strains for live vaccines.
Virulence in human-pathogenic Yersinia species is associated with a plasmid-encoded type III secretion system that translocates a set of Yop effector proteins into host cells. One effector, YopE, functions as a Rho GTPase-activating protein (GAP). In addition to acting as a virulence factor, YopE can function as a protective antigen. C57BL/6 mice infected with attenuated Yersinia pestis generate a dominant H2-Kb-restricted CD8 T cell response to an epitope in the N-terminal domain of YopE (YopE69-77), and intranasal vaccination with the YopE69-77 peptide and the mucosal adjuvant cholera toxin (CT) elicits CD8 T cells that are protective against lethal pulmonary challenge with Y. pestis. Because YopE69-77 is conserved in many Yersinia strains, we sought to determine if YopE is a protective antigen for Yersinia pseudotuberculosis and if primary infection with this enteric pathogen elicits a CD8 T cell response to this epitope. Intranasal immunization with the YopE69-77 peptide and CT elicited a CD8 T cell response that was protective against lethal intragastric Y. pseudotuberculosis challenge. The YopE69-77 epitope was a major antigen (∼30% of splenic CD8 T cells were specific for this peptide at the peak of the response) during primary infection with Y. pseudotuberculosis, as shown by flow cytometry tetramer staining. Results of infections with Y. pseudotuberculosis expressing catalytically inactive YopE demonstrated that GAP activity is dispensable for a CD8 T cell response to YopE69-77. Determining the features of YopE that are important for this response will lead to a better understanding of how protective CD8 T cell immunity is generated against Yersinia and other pathogens with type III secretion systems.
Pan-genomic studies aim, for instance, at defining the core, dispensable and unique genes within a species. A pan-genomics study for vaccine design tries to assess the best candidates for a vaccine against a specific pathogen. In this context, rather than studying genes predicted to be exported in a single genome, with pan-genomics it is possible to study genes present in different strains within the same species, such as virulence factors. The target organism of this pan-genomic work here presented is Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis, the etiologic agent of caseous lymphadenitis (CLA) in goat and sheep, which causes significant economic losses in those herds around the world. Currently, only a few antigens against CLA are known as being the basis of commercial and still ineffective vaccines. In this regard, the here presented work analyses, in silico, five C. pseudotuberculosis genomes and gathers data to predict common exported proteins in all five genomes. These candidates were also compared to two recent C. pseudotuberculosis in vitro exoproteome results.
The complete genome of five C. pseudotuberculosis strains (1002, C231, I19, FRC41 and PAT10) were submitted to pan-genomics analysis, yielding 306, 59 and 12 gene sets, respectively, representing the core, dispensable and unique in silico predicted exported pan-genomes. These sets bear 150 genes classified as secreted (SEC) and 227 as potentially surface exposed (PSE). Our findings suggest that the main C. pseudotuberculosis in vitro exoproteome could be greater, appended by a fraction of the 35 proteins formerly predicted as making part of the variant in vitro exoproteome. These genomes were manually curated for correct methionine initiation and redeposited with a total of 1885 homogenized genes.
The in silico prediction of exported proteins has allowed to define a list of putative vaccine candidate genes present in all five complete C. pseudotuberculosis genomes. Moreover, it has also been possible to define the in silico predicted dispensable and unique C. pseudotuberculosis exported proteins. These results provide in silico evidence to further guide experiments in the areas of vaccines, diagnosis and drugs. The work here presented is the first whole C. pseudotuberculosis in silico predicted pan-exoproteome completed till today.
Comparative Yersinia genomics identifies features responsible for the colonization of specific host habitats and the horizontal transfer of virulence determinants.
New DNA sequencing technologies have enabled detailed comparative genomic analyses of entire genera of bacterial pathogens. Prior to this study, three species of the enterobacterial genus Yersinia that cause invasive human diseases (Yersinia pestis, Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, and Yersinia enterocolitica) had been sequenced. However, there were no genomic data on the Yersinia species with more limited virulence potential, frequently found in soil and water environments.
We used high-throughput sequencing-by-synthesis instruments to obtain 25- to 42-fold average redundancy, whole-genome shotgun data from the type strains of eight species: Y. aldovae, Y. bercovieri, Y. frederiksenii, Y. kristensenii, Y. intermedia, Y. mollaretii, Y. rohdei, and Y. ruckeri. The deepest branching species in the genus, Y. ruckeri, causative agent of red mouth disease in fish, has the smallest genome (3.7 Mb), although it shares the same core set of approximately 2,500 genes as the other members of the species, whose genomes range in size from 4.3 to 4.8 Mb. Yersinia genomes had a similar global partition of protein functions, as measured by the distribution of Cluster of Orthologous Groups families. Genome to genome variation in islands with genes encoding functions such as ureases, hydrogeneases and B-12 cofactor metabolite reactions may reflect adaptations to colonizing specific host habitats.
Rapid high-quality draft sequencing was used successfully to compare pathogenic and non-pathogenic members of the Yersinia genus. This work underscores the importance of the acquisition of horizontally transferred genes in the evolution of Y. pestis and points to virulence determinants that have been gained and lost on multiple occasions in the history of the genus.
Pseudomonas syringae is a phylogenetically diverse species of Gram-negative bacterial plant pathogens responsible for crop diseases around the world. The HrpL sigma factor drives expression of the major P. syringae virulence regulon. HrpL controls expression of the genes encoding the structural and functional components of the type III secretion system (T3SS) and the type three secreted effector proteins (T3E) that are collectively essential for virulence. HrpL also regulates expression of an under-explored suite of non-type III effector genes (non-T3E), including toxin production systems and operons not previously associated with virulence. We implemented and refined genome-wide transcriptional analysis methods using cDNA-derived high-throughput sequencing (RNA-seq) data to characterize the HrpL regulon from six isolates of P. syringae spanning the diversity of the species. Our transcriptomes, mapped onto both complete and draft genomes, significantly extend earlier studies. We confirmed HrpL-regulation for a majority of previously defined T3E genes in these six strains. We identified two new T3E families from P. syringae pv. oryzae 1_6, a strain within the relatively underexplored phylogenetic Multi-Locus Sequence Typing (MLST) group IV. The HrpL regulons varied among strains in gene number and content across both their T3E and non-T3E gene suites. Strains within MLST group II consistently express the lowest number of HrpL-regulated genes. We identified events leading to recruitment into, and loss from, the HrpL regulon. These included gene gain and loss, and loss of HrpL regulation caused by group-specific cis element mutations in otherwise conserved genes. Novel non-T3E HrpL-regulated genes include an operon that we show is required for full virulence of P. syringae pv. phaseolicola 1448A on French bean. We highlight the power of integrating genomic, transcriptomic, and phylogenetic information to drive concise functional experimentation and to derive better insight into the evolution of virulence across an evolutionarily diverse pathogen species.
Pseudomonas syringae are environmentally ubiquitous bacteria of wide phylogenetic distribution, which can cause disease on a broad range of plant species. Pathogenicity requires the master regulator HrpL. HrpL controls the activation of virulence factor genes, including those encoding the type III secretion system which facilitates translocation of bacterial proteins into host cells. Here we overlaid transcriptome profiling of genes onto their phylogenetic distribution by characterizing the HrpL regulon across six diverse strains of P. syringae. We identified novel putative virulence factors, discovered two novel effector families, and functionally characterized an operon most likely involved in secondary metabolism that we show is required for virulence. We demonstrated that the size and composition of the HrpL regulon varies among strains, and explored how genes are recruited into, or lost from, the virulence regulon. Overall, our work widens the understanding of P. syringae pathogenicity and presents an experimental paradigm extensible to other pathogenic bacterial species.
Specialized protein translocation systems are used by many bacterial pathogens to deliver effector proteins into host cells that interfere with normal cellular functions. How the host immune system recognizes and responds to this intrusive event is not understood. To address these questions, we determined the mammalian cellular response to the virulence-associated type III secretion system (T3SS) of the human pathogen Yersinia pseudotuberculosis. We found that macrophages devoid of Toll-like receptor (TLR) signaling regulate expression of 266 genes following recognition of the Y. pseudotuberculosis T3SS. This analysis revealed two temporally distinct responses that could be separated into activation of NFκB- and type I IFN-regulated genes. Extracellular bacteria were capable of triggering these signaling events, as inhibition of bacterial uptake had no effect on the ensuing innate immune response. The cytosolic peptidoglycan sensors Nod1 and Nod2 and the inflammasome component caspase-1 were not involved in NFκB activation following recognition of the Y. pseudotuberculosis T3SS. However, caspase-1 was required for secretion of the inflammatory cytokine IL-1β in response to T3SS-positive Y. pseudotuberculosis. In order to characterize the bacterial requirements for induction of this novel TLR-, Nod1/2-, and caspase-1-independent response, we used Y. pseudotuberculosis strains lacking specific components of the T3SS. Formation of a functional T3SS pore was required, as bacteria expressing a secretion needle, but lacking the pore-forming proteins YopB or YopD, did not trigger these signaling events. However, nonspecific membrane disruption could not recapitulate the NFκB signaling triggered by Y. pseudotuberculosis expressing a functional T3SS pore. Although host cell recognition of the T3SS did not require known translocated substrates, the ensuing response could be modulated by effectors such as YopJ and YopT, as YopT amplified the response, while YopJ dampened it. Collectively, these data suggest that combined recognition of the T3SS pore and YopBD-mediated delivery of immune activating ligands into the host cytosol informs the host cell of pathogenic challenge. This leads to a unique, multifactorial response distinct from the canonical immune response to a bacterium lacking a T3SS.
Most multicellular organisms have immune sensors that recognize molecules common among microorganisms. Recognition of such molecules informs the host that invading microbes are present, triggering an immune response. Many known innate immune sensors, however, do not appear to distinguish commensals from pathogens. This is in spite of the fact that the host must clear pathogens while simultaneously avoiding a response to benign or beneficial microbes. There are few molecular explanations for how this discrimination occurs in mammalian hosts. To address this problem, we analyzed the response of mammalian cells to the gut pathogen Yersinia pseudotuberculosis. We found that Yersinia expressing a virulence-associated secretion system caused a transcriptional response in host cells that was very different from the response to a strain with a nonfunctional version of the secretion system. This transcriptional response included several distinct signaling pathways leading to production of mediators of innate immunity, including cytokines such as type I interferon and TNF-α. A large number of pathogens express specialized secretion systems similar to that in Yersinia, so these findings provide evidence that there is a mammalian immune response to alterations in host cells that results from pathogen attack, supporting known systems for recognition of common microbial molecules.
The complete nucleotide sequence and gene organization of the three virulence plasmids from Yersinia pestis KIM5 were determined. Plasmid pPCP1 (9,610 bp) has a GC content of 45.3% and encodes two previously known virulence factors, an associated protein, and a single copy of IS100. Plasmid pCD1 (70,504 bp) has a GC content of 44.8%. It is known to encode a number of essential virulence determinants, regulatory functions, and a multiprotein secretory system comprising the low-calcium response stimulation that is shared with the other two Yersinia species pathogenic for humans (Y. pseudotuberculosis and Y. enterocolitica). A new pseudogene, which occurs as an intact gene in the Y. enterocolitica and Y. pseudotuberculosis-derived analogues, was found in pCD1. It corresponds to that encoding the lipoprotein YlpA. Several intact and partial insertion sequences and/or transposons were also found in pCD1, as well as six putative structural genes with high homology to proteins of unknown function in other yersiniae. The sequences of the genes involved in the replication of pCD1 are highly homologous to those of the cognate plasmids in Y. pseudotuberculosis and Y. enterocolitica, but their localization within the plasmid differs markedly from those of the latter. Plasmid pMT1 (100,984 bp) has a GC content of 50.2%. It possesses two copies of IS100, which are located 25 kb apart and in opposite orientations. Adjacent to one of these IS100 inserts is a partial copy of IS285. A single copy of an IS200-like element (recently named IS1541) was also located in pMT1. In addition to 5 previously described genes, such as murine toxin, capsule antigen, capsule anchoring protein, etc., 30 homologues to genes of several bacterial species were found in this plasmid, and another 44 open reading frames without homology to any known or hypothetical protein in the databases were predicted.
All Yersinia species target and bind to phagocytic cells, but uptake and destruction of bacteria are prevented by injection of anti-phagocytic Yop proteins into the host cell. Here we provide evidence that CD8+ T cells, which canonically eliminate intracellular pathogens, are important for restricting Yersinia, even though bacteria are primarily found in an extracellular locale during the course of disease. In a model of infection with attenuated Y. pseudotuberculosis, mice deficient for CD8+ T cells were more susceptible to infection than immunocompetent mice. Although exposure to attenuated Y. pseudotuberculosis generated TH1-type antibody responses and conferred protection against challenge with fully virulent bacteria, depletion of CD8+ T cells during challenge severely compromised protective immunity. Strikingly, mice lacking the T cell effector molecule perforin also succumbed to Y. pseudotuberculosis infection. Given that the function of perforin is to kill antigen-presenting cells, we reasoned that cell death marks bacteria-associated host cells for internalization by neighboring phagocytes, thus allowing ingestion and clearance of the attached bacteria. Supportive of this model, cytolytic T cell killing of Y. pseudotuberculosis–associated host cells results in engulfment by neighboring phagocytes of both bacteria and target cells, bypassing anti-phagocytosis. Our findings are consistent with a novel function for cell-mediated immune responses protecting against extracellular pathogens like Yersinia: perforin and CD8+ T cells are critical for hosts to overcome the anti-phagocytic action of Yops.
Pathogenic Yersinia are bacteria that cause diverse diseases such as gastroenteritis and plague. Yersinia binds to specialized immune cells called macrophages, which attempt to engulf and destroy the bacteria. The bacteria resist destruction by injecting proteins called Yops into macrophages, which stops the engulfment process. Yersinia thus survives as attached but extracellular bacteria to cause disease. Yersinia disease can be prevented by immunization. In this study, we identified one mechanism of protective immunity—that host cells called CD8+ T lymphocytes are important to restrict Yersinia infection. This observation is unusual because CD8+ T cells generally protect against intracellular pathogens: T cells destroy the host cell harboring the pathogen, thus preventing the pathogen's replication. We present data consistent with the model that CD8+ T cells can also restrict extracellular bacteria by showing that T cells target host cells with extracellularly attached Yersinia, thus allowing the host cells and associated bacteria to be engulfed and removed by neighboring macrophages.
Identification of novel virulence factors is essential for understanding bacterial pathogenesis and designing antibacterial strategies. In this study, we uncover such a factor, termed KerV, in Proteobacteria. Experiments carried out in a variety of eukaryotic host infection models revealed that the virulence of a Pseudomonas aeruginosa kerV null mutant was compromised when it interacted with amoebae, plants, flies, and mice. Bioinformatics analyses indicated that KerV is a hypothetical methyltransferase and is well-conserved across numerous Proteobacteria, including both well-known and emerging pathogens (e.g., virulent Burkholderia, Escherichia, Shigella, Vibrio, Salmonella, Yersinia and Brucella species). Furthermore, among the 197 kerV orthologs analyzed in this study, about 89% reside in a defined genomic neighborhood, which also possesses essential DNA replication and repair genes and detoxification gene. Finally, infection of Drosophila melanogaster with null mutants demonstrated that KerV orthologs are also crucial in Vibrio cholerae and Yersinia pseudotuberculosis pathogenesis. Our findings suggested that KerV has a novel and broad significance as a virulence factor in pathogenic Proteobacteria and it might serve as a new target for antibiotic drug design.
Sensitivity to Yersinia pestis bacteriocin pesticin correlates with the existence of two groups of human pathogenic yersiniae, mouse lethal and mouse nonlethal. The presence of the outer membrane pesticin receptor (FyuA) in mouse-lethal yersiniae is a prerequisite for pesticin sensitivity. Genes that code for FyuA (fyuA) were identified and sequenced from pesticin-sensitive bacteria, including Y. enterocolitica biotype 1B (serotypes O8; O13, O20, and O21), Y. pseudotuberculosis serotype O1, Y. pestis, two known pesticin-sensitive Escherichia coli isolates (E. coli Phi and E. coli CA42), and two newly discovered pesticin-sensitive isolates, E. coli K49 and K235. A 2,318-bp fyuA sequence was shown to be highly conserved in all pesticin-sensitive bacteria, including E. coli strains (DNA sequence homology was 98.5 to 99.9%). The same degree of DNA homology (97.8 to 100%) was established for the sequenced 276-bp fragment of the irp2 gene that encodes high-molecular-weight protein 2, which is also thought to be involved in the expression of virulence by Yersinia species. Highly conserved irp2 was also found in all pesticin-sensitive E. coli strains. On the basis of the fyuA and irp2 sequence homologies, two evolutionary groups of highly pathogenic Yersinia species can be established. One group includes Y. enterocolitica biotype 1B strains, while the second includes Y. pestis, Y. pseudotuberculosis serotype O1, and irp2-positive Y. pseudotuberculosis serotype O3 strains. E. coli Phi, CA42, K49, and K235 belong to the second group. The possible proximity of these two iron-regulated genes (fyuA and irp2), as well as their high levels of sequence conservation and similar G+C contents (56.2 and 59.8 mol%), leads to the assumption that these two genes may represent part of an unstable pathogenicity island that has been acquired by pesticin-sensitive bacteria as a result of a horizontal transfer.
The transformation of the enteropathogenic bacterium Yersinia pseudotuberculosis into the plague bacillus, Yersinia pestis, has been accompanied by extensive genetic loss. This study focused on chromosomal regions conserved in Y. pseudotuberculosis and lost during its transformation into Y. pestis. An extensive PCR screening of 78 strains of the two species identified five regions (R1 to R5) and four open reading frames (ORFs; orf1 to orf4) that were conserved in Y. pseudotuberculosis and absent from Y. pestis. Their conservation in Y. pseudotuberculosis suggests a positive selective pressure and a role during the life cycle of this species. Attempts to delete two ORFs (orf3 and orf4) from the chromosome of strain IP32953 were unsuccessful, indicating that they are essential for its viability. The seven remaining loci were individually deleted from the IP32953 chromosome, and the ability of each mutant to grow in vitro and to kill mice upon intragastric infection was evaluated. Four loci (orf1, R2, R4, and R5) were not required for optimal growth or virulence of Y. pseudotuberculosis. In contrast, orf2, encoding a putative pseudouridylate synthase involved in RNA stability, was necessary for the optimal growth of IP32953 at 37°C in a chemically defined medium (M63S). Deletion of R1, a region predicted to encode the methionine salvage pathway, altered the mutant pathogenicity, suggesting that the availability of free methionine is severely restricted in vivo. R3, a region composed mostly of genes of unknown functions, was necessary for both optimal growth of Y. pseudotuberculosis at 37°C in M63S and for virulence. Therefore, despite their loss in Y. pestis, five of the nine Y. pseudotuberculosis-specific chromosomal loci studied play a role in the survival, growth, or virulence of this species.
The genus Yersinia contains three pathogenic species: Yersinia pestis, Y. pseudotuberculosis, and Y. enterocolitica. Only a few biotypes and serotypes of Y. enterocolitica are pathogenic, and these form two distinct groups: some are of low virulence, and they are encountered worldwide; others, mainly encountered in North America, are markedly more virulent. All pathogenic yersiniae possess a 70-kb virulence plasmid called pYV which encodes secreted antihost proteins called Yops as well as a type III secretion machinery that is required for Yop secretion. Genes encoding Yop synthesis and secretion are tightly clustered in three quadrants of the pYV plasmid. We show here that in the low-virulence strains of Y. enterocolitica, the fourth quadrant of the plasmid contains a new class II transposon, Tn2502. This transposon encodes a defective transposase, but transposition can be complemented in trans by Tn2501, another class II transposon. Tn2502 was not detected in the pYV plasmids of the more virulent American strains of Y. enterocolitica, of Y. pseudotuberculosis, and of Y. pestis. Tn2502 confers arsenite and arsenate resistance. This resistance involves four genes; three are homologous to the arsRBC genes present on the Escherichia coli chromosome, but no homolog of the fourth one, arsH, has been found. The systematic presence of such a resistance operon on a virulence plasmid is unusual and could be related to the recent spread of low-virulence Y. enterocolitica strains. The presence of this ars operon also constitutes the first significant difference between the pYV plasmids from different Yersinia species.
Low molecular weight siderophores are used by many living organisms to scavenge scarcely available ferric iron. Presence of at least a single siderophore-based iron acquisition system is usually acknowledged as a virulence-associated trait and a pre-requisite to become an efficient and successful pathogen. Currently, it is assumed that yersiniabactin (Ybt) is the solely functional endogenous siderophore iron uptake system in highly virulent Yersinia (Yersinia pestis, Y. pseudotuberculosis, and Y. enterocolitica biotype 1B). Genes responsible for biosynthesis, transport, and regulation of the yersiniabactin (ybt) production are clustered on a mobile genetic element, the High-Pathogenicity Island (HPI) that is responsible for broad dissemination of the ybt genes in Enterobacteriaceae. However, the ybt gene cluster is absent from nearly half of Y. pseudotuberculosis O3 isolates and epidemic Y. pseudotuberculosis O1 isolates responsible for the Far East Scarlet-like Fever. Several potential siderophore-mediated iron uptake gene clusters are documented in Yersinia genomes, however, neither of them have been proven to be functional. It has been suggested that at least two siderophores alternative to Ybt may operate in the highly virulent Yersinia pestis/Y. pseudotuberculosis group, and are referred to as pseudochelin (Pch) and yersiniachelin (Ych). Furthermore, most sporadic Y. pseudotuberculosis O1 strains possess gene clusters encoding all three iron scavenging systems. Thus, the Ybt system appears not to be the sole endogenous siderophore iron uptake system in the highly virulent yersiniae and may be efficiently substituted and/or supplemented by alternative iron siderophore scavenging systems.
highly virulent Yersinia; iron acquisition; siderophores; pathogenomics; epidemic Yersinia
Disulfide bond formation is required for the folding of many bacterial virulence factors. However, whereas the Escherichia coli disulfide bond-forming system is well characterized, not much is known on the pathways that oxidatively fold proteins in pathogenic bacteria. Here, we report the detailed unraveling of the pathway that introduces disulfide bonds in the periplasm of the human pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The genome of P. aeruginosa uniquely encodes two DsbA proteins (P. aeruginosa DsbA1 [PaDsbA1] and PaDsbA2) and two DsbB proteins (PaDsbB1 and PaDsbB2). We found that PaDsbA1, the primary donor of disulfide bonds to secreted proteins, is maintained oxidized in vivo by both PaDsbB1 and PaDsbB2. In vitro reconstitution of the pathway confirms that both PaDsbB1 and PaDsbB2 shuttle electrons from PaDsbA1 to membrane-bound quinones. Accordingly, deletion of both P. aeruginosa dsbB1 (PadsbB1) and PadsbB2 is required to prevent the folding of several P. aeruginosa virulence factors and to lead to a significant decrease in pathogenicity. Using a high-throughput proteomic approach, we also analyzed the impact of PadsbA1 deletion on the global periplasmic proteome of P. aeruginosa, which allowed us to identify more than 20 new potential substrates of this major oxidoreductase. Finally, we report the biochemical and structural characterization of PaDsbA2, a highly oxidizing oxidoreductase, which seems to be expressed under specific conditions. By fully dissecting the machinery that introduces disulfide bonds in P. aeruginosa, our work opens the way to the design of novel antibacterial molecules able to disarm this pathogen by preventing the proper assembly of its arsenal of virulence factors.
The human pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa causes life-threatening infections in immunodepressed and cystic fibrosis patients. The emergence of P. aeruginosa strains resistant to all of the available antibacterial agents calls for the urgent development of new antibiotics active against this bacterium. The pathogenic power of P. aeruginosa is mediated by an arsenal of extracellular virulence factors, most of which are stabilized by disulfide bonds. Thus, targeting the machinery that introduces disulfide bonds appears to be a promising strategy to combat P. aeruginosa. Here, we unraveled the oxidative protein folding system of P. aeruginosa in full detail. The system uniquely consists of two membrane proteins that generate disulfide bonds de novo to deliver them to P. aeruginosa DsbA1 (PaDsbA1), a soluble oxidoreductase. PaDsbA1 in turn donates disulfide bonds to secreted proteins, including virulence factors. Disruption of the disulfide bond formation machinery dramatically decreases P. aeruginosa virulence, confirming that disulfide formation systems are valid targets for the design of antimicrobial drugs.
Plague is still a public health problem in the world and is re-emerging, but no efficient vaccine is available. We previously reported that oral inoculation of a live attenuated Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, the recent ancestor of Yersinia pestis, provided protection against bubonic plague. However, the strain poorly protected against pneumonic plague, the most deadly and contagious form of the disease, and was not genetically defined.
Methodology and Principal Findings
The sequenced Y. pseudotuberculosis IP32953 has been irreversibly attenuated by deletion of genes encoding three essential virulence factors. An encapsulated Y. pseudotuberculosis was generated by cloning the Y. pestis F1-encoding caf operon and expressing it in the attenuated strain. The new V674pF1 strain produced the F1 capsule in vitro and in vivo. Oral inoculation of V674pF1 allowed the colonization of the gut without lesions to Peyer's patches and the spleen. Vaccination induced both humoral and cellular components of immunity, at the systemic (IgG and Th1 cells) and the mucosal levels (IgA and Th17 cells). A single oral dose conferred 100% protection against a lethal pneumonic plague challenge (33×LD50 of the fully virulent Y. pestis CO92 strain) and 94% against a high challenge dose (3,300×LD50). Both F1 and other Yersinia antigens were recognized and V674pF1 efficiently protected against a F1-negative Y. pestis.
Conclusions and Significance
The encapsulated Y. pseudotuberculosis V674pF1 is an efficient live oral vaccine against pneumonic plague, and could be developed for mass vaccination in tropical endemic areas to control pneumonic plague transmission and mortality.
Plague, among the most deadly infections of mankind's history, is present in Africa, Asia and America, and is currently re-emerging, recently causing cases in areas from where it had disappeared for decades. Pneumonic plague, its most deadly and contagious form, is responsible for human-to-human spreading of the infection. Vaccination would be an effective means to control the disease, but no efficient vaccine is currently available. Because live vaccines are potent inducers of protective immunity, our strategy was to use a Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, closely related to Y. pestis but genetically more stable, to make it suitable for use as live oral vaccine. We have developed a genetically defined Y. pseudotuberculosis strain strongly attenuated by deletion of virulence factors genes, which was also induced to produce the Y. pestis F1 pseudocapsule. A single oral dose was harmless and provided high- level protection against pneumonic plague. Such a candidate vaccine offers promising perspectives to control pneumonic plague mortality and transmission.
The virulence of yersiniae varies according to (i) species and biotype and (ii) possession of a 67- to 72-kilobase virulence plasmid. Y. pestis, Y. pseudotuberculosis, and biotypes 1B, 2, 3, 4, and 5 of Y. enterocolitica are inherently virulent but express full virulence only when in possession of a virulence plasmid. Other Yersinia species and biotypes 1A and 3B of Y. enterocolitica are seldom implicated in disease. In this study, we prepared DNA probes from eight nonoverlapping regions of the virulence plasmid of a strain of Y. enterocolitica and from the inv and ail chromosomal loci responsible for the invasive capacity of Y. enterocolitica and Y. pseudotuberculosis. The probes were used in colony hybridization experiments to investigate 156 yersiniae of various species and biotypes and of differing virulence. Probes prepared from the inv gene of Y. pseudotuberculosis hybridized with Y. pseudotuberculosis and Y. pestis only, whereas an analogous probe prepared from Y. enterocolitica hybridized with all species and biotypes of yersiniae (but not with other bacteria) regardless of virulence or potential virulence. Probes prepared from the ail region of Y. enterocolitica reacted almost exclusively with Y. enterocolitica strains of pathogenic biotypes. Probes prepared from the virulence plasmid of a serogroup O:8, biotype 1B isolate of Y. enterocolitica identified virulent yersiniae in all species with a high degree of sensitivity and specificity. These probes did not react with yersiniae of avirulent biotypes or species. Of the other assays of virulence evaluated (calcium dependence, binding of crystal violet, and pyrazinamidase activity), binding of crystal violet provided a simple means for identifying plasmid-bearing strains.
Yersinia pseudotuberculosis forms biofilms on Caenorhabditis elegans which block nematode feeding. This genetically amenable host-pathogen model has important implications for biofilm development on living, motile surfaces. Here we show that Y. pseudotuberculosis biofilm development on C. elegans is governed by N-acylhomoserine lactone (AHL)-mediated quorum sensing (QS) since (i) AHLs are produced in nematode associated biofilms and (ii) Y. pseudotuberculosis strains expressing an AHL-degrading enzyme or in which the AHL synthase (ypsI and ytbI) or response regulator (ypsR and ytbR) genes have been mutated, are attenuated. Although biofilm formation is also attenuated in Y. pseudotuberculosis strains carrying mutations in the QS-controlled motility regulator genes, flhDC and fliA, and the flagellin export gene, flhA, flagella are not required since fliC mutants form normal biofilms. However, in contrast to the parent and fliC mutant, Yop virulon proteins are up-regulated in flhDC, fliA and flhA mutants in a temperature and calcium independent manner. Similar observations were found for the Y. pseudotuberculosis QS mutants, indicating that the Yop virulon is repressed by QS via the master motility regulator, flhDC. By curing the pYV virulence plasmid from the ypsI/ytbI mutant, by growing YpIII under conditions permissive for type III needle formation but not Yop secretion and by mutating the type III secretion apparatus gene, yscJ, we show that biofilm formation can be restored in flhDC and ypsI/ytbI mutants. These data demonstrate that type III secretion blocks biofilm formation and is reciprocally regulated with motility via QS.
Many Gram-negative bacteria communicate by producing and sensing the presence of chemical signal molecules such as the N-acylhomoserine lactones (AHLs). Bacterial cells use AHLs to convey information about their environment, metabolism and population size. This type of chemical signalling is called ‘quorum sensing’ (QS) and is often used by pathogenic bacteria to promote acute or chronic infections through the control of motility, toxins, tissue degrading enzymes and surface-associated biofilms. Yersinia pseudotuberculosis is a human pathogen which forms biofilms on the surface of the nematode worm, Caenorhabditis elegans. This offers a simple means for investigating biofilm development on living tissues and can be used to identify genetic features of both the pathogen and the host that contribute to biofilm-associated infections. We have discovered that quorum sensing is required for Y. pseudotuberculosis biofilm formation on C. elegans through a regulatory pathway which involves the master motility regulator protein (FlhDC) reciprocally controlling bacterial swimming and the construction of a specialized secretion needle that delivers proteins into mammalian cells to disrupt their normal activities.
Pathogenicity islands (PAIs) are chromosomal clusters of pathogen-specific virulence genes often found at tRNA loci. In the Yersinia pseudotuberculosis 32777 chromosome, we characterized a 98-kb segment that has all of the characteristic features of a PAI, including insertion in a (phenylalanine) tRNA gene, the presence of a bacteriophage-like integrase-encoding gene, and direct repeats at the integration sites. The G+C content of the segment ranges from 31 to 60%, reflecting a genetic mosaic: this is consistent with the notion that the sequences were horizontally acquired. The PAI, termed YAPI (for Yersinia adhesion pathogenicity island), carries 95 open reading frames and includes (i) the previously described pil operon, encoding a type IV pilus that contributes to pathogenicity (F. Collyn et al., Infect. Immun. 70:6196-6205, 2002); (ii) a block of genes potentially involved in general metabolism; (iii) a gene cluster for a restriction-modification system; and (iv) a large number of mobile genetic elements. Furthermore, the PAI can excise itself from the chromosome at low frequency and in a precise manner, and deletion does not result in a significant decrease of bacterial virulence compared to inactivation of the fimbrial gene cluster alone. The prevalence and size of the PAI vary from one Y. pseudotuberculosis strain to another, and it can be found integrated into either of the two phe tRNA loci present on the species' chromosome. YAPI was not detected in the genome of the genetically closely related species Y. pestis, whereas a homologous PAI is harbored by the Y. enterocolitica chromosome.