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1.  In vitro and in vivo cell invasion and systemic spreading of Mycoplasma agalactiae in the sheep infection model 
Generally regarded as extracellular pathogens, molecular mechanisms of mycoplasma persistence, chronicity and disease spread are largely unknown. Mycoplasma agalactiae, an economically important pathogen of small ruminants, causes chronic infections that are difficult to eradicate. Animals continue to shed the agent for several months and even years after the initial infection, in spite of long antibiotic treatment. However, little is known about the strategies that M. agalactiae employs to survive and spread within an immunocompetent host to cause chronic disease. Here, we demonstrate for the first time its ability to invade cultured human (HeLa) and ruminant (BEND and BLF) host cells. Presence of intracellular mycoplasmas is clearly substantiated using differential immunofluorescence technique and quantitative gentamicin invasion assays. Internalized M. agalactiae could survive and exit the cells in a viable state to repopulate the extracellular environment after complete removal of extracellular bacteria with gentamicin. Furthermore, an experimental sheep intramammary infection was carried out to evaluate its systemic spread to organs and host niches distant from the site of initial infection. Positive results obtained via PCR, culture and immunohistochemistry, especially the latter depicting the presence of M. agalactiae in the cytoplasm of mammary duct epithelium and macrophages, clearly provide the first formal proof of M. agalactiae's capability to translocate across the mammary epithelium and systemically disseminate to distant inner organs. Altogether, the findings of these in vitro and in vivo studies indicate that M. agalactiae is capable of entering host cells and this might be the strategy that it employs at a population level to ward off the host immune response and antibiotic action, and to disseminate to new and safer niches to later egress and once again proliferate upon the return of favorable conditions to cause persistent chronic infections.
doi:10.1016/j.ijmm.2014.07.011
PMCID: PMC4282308  PMID: 25129554
Mycoplasma agalactiae; Cell invasion; Systemic spreading; Persistence; Immunohistochemistry; Intracellular
2.  Xer1-Mediated Site-Specific DNA Inversions and Excisions in Mycoplasma agalactiae▿ ‡  
Journal of Bacteriology  2010;192(17):4462-4473.
Surface antigen variation in Mycoplasma agalactiae, the etiologic agent of contagious agalactia in sheep and goats, is governed by site-specific recombination within the vpma multigene locus encoding the Vpma family of variable surface lipoproteins. This high-frequency Vpma phase switching was previously shown to be mediated by a Xer1 recombinase encoded adjacent to the vpma locus. In this study, it was demonstrated in Escherichia coli that the Xer1 recombinase is responsible for catalyzing vpma gene inversions between recombination sites (RS) located in the 5′-untranslated region (UTR) in all six vpma genes, causing cleavage and strand exchange within a 21-bp conserved region that serves as a recognition sequence. It was further shown that the outcome of the site-specific recombination event depends on the orientation of the two vpma RS, as direct or inverted repeats. While recombination between inverted vpma RS led to inversions, recombination between direct repeat vpma RS led to excisions. Using a newly developed excision assay based on the lacZ reporter system, we were able to successfully demonstrate under native conditions that such Xer1-mediated excisions can indeed also occur in the M. agalactiae type strain PG2, whereas they were not observed in the control xer1-disrupted VpmaY phase-locked mutant (PLMY), which lacks Xer1 recombinase. Unless there are specific regulatory mechanisms preventing such excisions, this might be the cost that the pathogen has to render at the population level for maintaining this high-frequency phase variation machinery.
doi:10.1128/JB.01537-09
PMCID: PMC2937384  PMID: 20562305
3.  Phase-locked mutants of Mycoplasma agalactiae: defining the molecular switch of high-frequency Vpma antigenic variation 
Molecular Microbiology  2008;67(6):1196-1210.
Mycoplasma agalactiae, an important pathogen of small ruminants, exhibits antigenic diversity by switching the expression of multiple surface lipoproteins called Vpmas (Variable proteins of M. agalactiae). Although phase variation has been shown to play important roles in many host–pathogen interactions, the biological significance and the mechanism of Vpma oscillations remain largely unclear. Here, we demonstrate that all six Vpma proteins are expressed in the type strain PG2 and all undergo phase variation at an unusually high frequency. Furthermore, targeted gene disruption of the xer1 gene encoding a putative site-specific recombinase adjacent to the vpma locus was accomplished via homologous recombination using a replicon-based vector. Inactivation of xer1 abolished further Vpma switching and the ‘phase-locked’ mutants (PLMs) continued to steadily express only a single Vpma product. Complementation of the wild-type xer1 gene in PLMs restored Vpma phase variation thereby proving that Xer1 is essential for vpma inversions. The study is not only instrumental in enhancing our ability to understand the role of Vpmas in M. agalactiae infections but also provides useful molecular approaches to study potential disease factors in other ‘difficult-to-manipulate’ mycoplasmas.
doi:10.1111/j.1365-2958.2007.06103.x
PMCID: PMC2268961  PMID: 18248580

Results 1-3 (3)