Nucleic acid amplification technique (NAT)-based assays (referred to here as NAT assays) are increasingly used as an alternative to culture-based approaches for the detection of mycoplasma contamination of cell cultures. Assay features, like the limit of detection or quantification, vary widely between different mycoplasma NAT assays. Biological reference materials may be useful for harmonization of mycoplasma NAT assays. An international feasibility study included lyophilized preparations of four distantly related mycoplasma species (Acholeplasma laidlawii, Mycoplasma fermentans, M. orale, M. pneumoniae) at different concentrations which were analyzed by 21 laboratories using 26 NAT assays with a qualitative, semiquantitative, or quantitative design. An M. fermentans preparation was shown to decrease the interassay variation when used as a common reference material. The preparation was remanufactured and characterized in a comparability study, and its potency (in NAT-detectable units) across different NATs was determined. The World Health Organization (WHO) Expert Committee on Biological Standardization (ECBS) established this preparation to be the “1st World Health Organization international standard for mycoplasma DNA for nucleic acid amplification technique-based assays designed for generic mycoplasma detection” (WHO Tech Rep Ser 987:42, 2014) with a potency of 200,000 IU/ml. This WHO international standard is now available as a reference preparation for characterization of NAT assays, e.g., for determination of analytic sensitivity, for calibration of quantitative assays in a common unitage, and for defining regulatory requirements in the field of mycoplasma testing.
Mycoplasmas possess complex pathogenicity determinants that are largely unknown at the molecular level. Mycoplasma agalactiae serves as a useful model to study the molecular basis of mycoplasma pathogenicity. The generation and in vivo screening of a transposon mutant library of M. agalactiae were employed to unravel its host colonization factors. Tn4001mod mutants were sequenced using a novel sequencing method, and functionally heterogeneous pools containing 15 to 19 selected mutants were screened simultaneously through two successive cycles of sheep intramammary infections. A PCR-based negative selection method was employed to identify mutants that failed to colonize the udders and draining lymph nodes in the animals. A total of 14 different mutants found to be absent from ≥95% of samples were identified and subsequently verified via a second round of stringent confirmatory screening where 100% absence was considered attenuation. Using this criterion, seven mutants with insertions in genes MAG1050, MAG2540, MAG3390, uhpT, eutD, adhT, and MAG4460 were not recovered from any of the infected animals. Among the attenuated mutants, many contain disruptions in hypothetical genes, implying their previously unknown role in M. agalactiae pathogenicity. These data indicate the putative role of functionally different genes, including hypothetical ones, in the pathogenesis of M. agalactiae. Defining the precise functions of the identified genes is anticipated to increase our understanding of M. agalactiae infections and to develop successful intervention strategies against it.
Compared with other bacterial pathogens, the molecular mechanisms of mycoplasma pathogenicity are largely unknown. Several studies in the past have shown that pathogenic mycoplasmas are equipped with sophisticated genetic systems that allow them to undergo high-frequency surface antigenic variations. Although never clearly proven, these variable mycoplasma surface components are often implicated in host immune evasion and adaptation. Vpma surface lipoproteins of the ruminant pathogen Mycoplasma agalactiae are encoded on a genomic pathogenicity island–like locus and are considered as one of the well-characterized model systems of mycoplasma surface antigenic variation. The present study assesses the role of these phase-variable Vpmas in the molecular pathogenesis of M. agalactiae by testing the wild-type strain PG2 in comparison with the xer1-disrupted Vpma ‘phase-locked’ mutants in sheep infection models. The data clearly illustrate that although Xer1 recombinase is not a virulence factor of M. agalactiae and Vpma phase variation is not necessary for establishing an infection, it might critically influence the survival and persistence of the pathogen under natural field conditions, mainly due to a better capacity for dissemination and evoking systemic responses. This is the first study where mycoplasma ‘phase-locked’ mutants are tested in vivo to elucidate the role of phase variation during infection.
Mycoplasma agalactiae; phase variation; variable surface lipoproteins; Vpma; phase-locked mutants; mastitis
Mycoplasma agalactiae and M. bovis rank amongst the most serious pathogenic mycoplasmas infecting small ruminants and cattle, respectively. Despite considerable advances made in Mycoplasma molecular genetics in the past decade, there is still a complete lack of genetic tools to assess the pathogenic mechanisms of these two species. Studies were undertaken to develop a genetic system for the analysis of potential virulence factors of these pathogens. Transposon Tn4001mod was successfully introduced into various chromosomal sites of M. agalactiae and M. bovis with an optimal frequency of 10−6 per viable colony-forming unit (CFU). This is the first report that demonstrates the amenability of these agents to transformation and to genetic manipulation. Furthermore, Tn4001 is implicated as the first potential genetic tool available for these ruminant pathogens.
Mycoplasma; Transformation; Transposon; Genetics; Mutagenesis
The utilization of available substrates, the metabolic potential and the growth rates of bacteria can play significant roles in their pathogenicity. This study concentrates on Mycoplasma agalactiae, which causes significant economic losses through its contribution to contagious agalactia in small ruminants by as yet unknown mechanisms. This lack of knowledge is primarily due to its fastidious growth requirements and the scarcity of genetic tools available for its manipulation and analysis. Transposon mutagenesis of M. agalactiae type strain PG2 resulted in several disruptions throughout the genome. A mutant defective in growth in vitro was found to have a transposon insertion in the pdhB gene, which encodes a component of the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex. This growth difference was quite significant during the actively dividing logarithmic phase but a gradual recovery was observed as the cells approached stationary phase. The mutant also exhibited a different and smaller colony morphology compared to the wild type strain PG2. For complementation, pdhAB was cloned downstream of a strong vpma promoter and upstream of a lacZ reporter gene in a newly constructed complementation vector. When transformed with this vector the pdhB mutant recovered its normal growth and colony morphology. Interestingly, the pdhB mutant also had significantly reduced invasiveness in HeLa cells, as revealed by double immunofluorescence staining. This deficiency was recovered in the complemented strain, which had invasiveness comparable to that of PG2. Taken together, these data indicate that pyruvate dehydrogenase might be an important player in infection with and colonization by M. agalactiae.
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.
Mycoplasma agalactiae; Cell invasion; Systemic spreading; Persistence; Immunohistochemistry; Intracellular
The pathogenesis of caseonecrotic lesions developing in lungs and joints of calves infected with Mycoplasma bovis is not clear and attempts to prevent M. bovis-induced disease by vaccines have been largely unsuccessful. In this investigation, joint samples from 4 calves, i.e. 2 vaccinated and 2 non-vaccinated, of a vaccination experiment with intraarticular challenge were examined. The aim was to characterize the histopathological findings, the phenotypes of inflammatory cells, the expression of class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC class II) molecules, and the expression of markers for nitritative stress, i.e. inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and nitrotyrosine (NT), in synovial membrane samples from these calves. Furthermore, the samples were examined for M. bovis antigens including variable surface protein (Vsp) antigens and M. bovis organisms by cultivation techniques.
The inoculated joints of all 4 calves had caseonecrotic and inflammatory lesions. Necrotic foci were demarcated by phagocytic cells, i.e. macrophages and neutrophilic granulocytes, and by T and B lymphocytes. The presence of M. bovis antigens in necrotic tissue lesions was associated with expression of iNOS and NT by macrophages. Only single macrophages demarcating the necrotic foci were positive for MHC class II. Microbiological results revealed that M. bovis had spread to approximately 27% of the non-inoculated joints. Differences in extent or severity between the lesions in samples from vaccinated and non-vaccinated animals were not seen.
The results suggest that nitritative injury, as in pneumonic lung tissue of M. bovis-infected calves, is involved in the development of caseonecrotic joint lesions. Only single macrophages were positive for MHC class II indicating down-regulation of antigen-presenting mechanisms possibly caused by local production of iNOS and NO by infiltrating macrophages.
Mycoplasma bovis; Arthritis; Vaccination; Variable surface protein antigens; MHC class II; Inducible nitric oxide; Nitrotyrosine
In order to test whether rooks (Corvus frugilegus) represent good indicators for the potential circulation of antibiotics in their native habitat, two populations with different migratory behavior were tested for the presence of beta-lactamase producing Enterobacteriaceae and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). In all, 54 and 102 samples of fresh feces of a migratory and a resident population were investigated. A total of 24 and 3 cefotaxime-resistant enterobacterial isolates were obtained from the migratory and resident population, respectively. In these isolates CTX-M-1 (n = 15), CTX-M-3 (n = 3), and CTX-M-15 (n = 3) genes were detected. TEM-1 and OXA-1 were associated with CTX-M in 3 and 2 isolates, respectively. In two E. coli isolates CMY-2 could be detected, where from one isolate displayed an overexpression of chromosomal AmpC as well. Among E. coli isolates the most common phylogenetic group was A (n = 11) and ST1683 (n = 5). In one E. coli of B2-ST131 the rfbO25b locus was detected. Three Enterobacter isolates were stably derepressed AmpC-producers. In five samples of the migratory population, PVL positive MRSA could be isolated. Two isolates were typed SCCmec IVa, spa type t127, and ST1. Three isolates carried a SCCmec type IVc, with spa type t852 and ST22. The highly significant difference of the occurrence of antibiotic resistance between the migratory population from eastern Europe compared to resident population in our study indicates that rooks may be good indicator species for the evaluation of environmental contamination with antibiotic resistant bacteria, especially due to their ecology, foraging behavior and differing migratory behavior.
Mycoplasma gallisepticum is an important avian pathogen that commonly induces chronic respiratory disease in chicken. To better understand the mycoplasma factors involved in host colonization, chickens were infected via aerosol with two hemadsorption-negative (HA−) mutants, mHAD3 and RCL2, that were derived from a low passage of the pathogenic strain R (Rlow) and are both deficient in the two major cytadhesins GapA and CrmA. After 9 days of infection, chickens were monitored for air sac lesions and for the presence of mycoplasmas in various organs. The data showed that mHAD3, in which the crmA gene has been disrupted, did not promote efficient colonization or significant air sac lesions. In contrast, the spontaneous HA− RCL2 mutant, which contains a point mutation in the gapA structural gene, successfully colonized the respiratory tract and displayed an attenuated virulence compared to that of Rlow. It has previously been shown in vitro that the point mutation of RCL2 spontaneously reverts with a high frequency, resulting in on-and-off switching of the HA phenotype. Detailed analyses further revealed that such an event is not responsible for the observed in vivo outcome, since 98.4% of the mycoplasma populations recovered from RCL2-infected chickens still display the mutation and the associated phenotype. Unlike Rlow, however, RCL2 was unable to colonize inner organs. These findings demonstrate the major role played by the GapA and CrmA proteins in M. gallisepticum host colonization and virulence.
The cell invasiveness of Mycoplasma gallisepticum, the causative agent of respiratory disease in chickens and infectious sinusitis in turkeys, may be a substantial factor in the well-known chronicity of these diseases and in the systemic spread of infection. To date, not much is known about the host factors and mechanisms involved in promotion or obstruction of M. gallisepticum adherence and/or cell invasion.
In the current study, the influence of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins such as fibronectin, collagen type IV and heparin, as well as plasminogen/plasmin, on the adhesion and cell invasion levels of M. gallisepticum to chicken erythrocytes and HeLa cells was investigated in vitro. Two strains, Rhigh and Rlow, which differ in their adhesion and invasion capacity, were analyzed by applying a modified gentamicin invasion assay. Binding of selected ECM molecules to M. gallisepticum was proven by Western blot analysis.
Collagen type IV, fibronectin, and plasminogen exerted positive effects on adhesion and cell invasion of M. gallisepticum, with varying degrees, depending on the strain used. Especially strain Rhigh, with its highly reduced cell adhesion and invasion capabilities seemed to profit from the addition of plasminogen. Western and dot blot analyses showed that Rhigh as well as Rlow are able to adsorb horse fibronectin and plasminogen present in the growth medium. Depletion of HeLa cell membranes from cholesterol resulted in increased adhesion, but decreased cell invasion.
ECM molecules seem to play a supportive role in the adhesion/cell invasion process of M. gallisepticum. Cholesterol depletion known to affect lipid rafts on the host cell surface had contrary effects on cell adherence and cell invasion of M. gallisepticum.
Extracellular matrix; Cell adhesion; Cell invasion; Rlow; Rhigh
Mycoplasma bovis is associated with pneumonia in calves characterized by the development of chronic caseonecrotic lesions with the agent persisting within the lesion. The purposes of this study were to characterize the morphology of lung lesions, examine the presence of M. bovis variable surface protein (Vsp) antigens and study the local immune responses in calves after infection with M. bovis strain 1067.
Lung tissue samples from eight calves euthanased three weeks after experimental infection with M. bovis were examined by bacteriology and pathology. Lung lesions were evaluated by immunohistochemical (IHC) staining for wide spectrum cytokeratin and for M. bovis Vsp antigens and pMB67 antigen. IHC identification and quantitative evaluation of CD4+ and CD8+ T lymphocytes and immunoglobulin (IgG1, IgG2, IgM, IgA)-containing plasma cells was performed. Additionally, expression of major histocompatibility complex class II (MHC class II) was studied by IHC.
Suppurative pneumonic lesions were found in all calves. In two calves with caseonecrotic pneumonia, necrotic foci were surrounded by epithelial cells resembling bronchial or bronchiolar epithelium. In all calves, M. bovis Vsp antigens were constantly present in the cytoplasm of macrophages and were also present extracellularly at the periphery of necrotic foci. There was a considerable increase in numbers of IgG1- and IgG2-positive plasma cells among which IgG1-containing plasma cells clearly predominated. Statistical evaluation of the numbers of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, however, did not reveal statistically significant differences between inoculated and control calves. In M. bovis infected calves, hyperplasia of bronchus-associated lymphoid tissue (BALT) was characterized by strong MHC class II expression of lymphoid cells, but only few of the macrophages demarcating the caseonecrotic foci were positive for MHC class II.
The results from this study show that infection of calves with M. bovis results in various lung lesions including caseonecrotic pneumonia originating from bronchioli and bronchi. There is long-term persistence of M. bovis as demonstrated by bacteriology and immunohistochemistry for M. bovis antigens, i.e. Vsp antigens and pMB67. The persistence of the pathogen and its ability to evade the specific immune response may in part result from local downregulation of antigen presenting mechanisms and an ineffective humoral immune response with prevalence of IgG1 antibodies that, compared to IgG2 antibodies, are poor opsonins.
Cattle, Mycoplasma bovis; pneumonia; immunoglobulins; CD4+ T cells; CD8+ cells; MHC class II
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.
Recently, it was demonstrated using in vitro assays that the avian pathogen Mycoplasma gallisepticum is able to invade nonphagocytic cells. It was also shown that this mycoplasma can survive and multiply intracellularly for at least 48 h and that this cell invasion capacity contributes to the systemic spread of M. gallisepticum from the respiratory tract to the inner organs. Using the gentamicin invasion assay and a differential immunofluorescence technique combined with confocal laser scanning microscopy, we were able to demonstrate in in vitro experiments that M. gallisepticum is also capable of invading sheep and chicken erythrocytes. The frequencies of invasion of three well-defined M. gallisepticum strains were examined over a period of 24 h, and a significant increase in invasiveness occurred after 8 h of infection. In addition, blood samples derived from chickens experimentally infected via the aerosol route with the virulent strain M. gallisepticum Rlow were analyzed. Surprisingly, M. gallisepticum Rlow was detected in the bloodstream of infected chickens by nested PCR, as well as by differential immunofluorescence and interference contrast microscopy that showed that mycoplasmas were not only on the surface but also inside chicken erythrocytes. This finding provides novel insight into the pathomechanism of M. gallisepticum and may have implications for the development of preventive strategies.
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.
Mycoplasma gallisepticum is a flask-shaped organism that commonly induces chronic respiratory disease in chickens and infectious sinusitis in turkeys. Phenotypic switching in M. gallisepticum hemadsorption (HA) was found to correlate with phase variation of the GapA cytadhesin concurrently with that of the CrmA protein, which exhibits cytadhesin-related features and is encoded by a gene located downstream of the gapA gene as part of the same transcription unit. In clones derived from strain Rlow, detailed genetic analyses further revealed that on-off switching in GapA expression is governed by a reversible base substitution occurring at the beginning of the gapA structural gene. In HA− variants, this event generates a stop codon that results in the premature termination of GapA translation and consequently affects the expression of CrmA. Sequences flanking the mutation spot do not feature any repeated motifs that could account for error-prone mutation via DNA slippage and the exact mechanism underlying this high-frequency mutational event remains to be elucidated. An HA− mutant deficient in producing CrmA, mHAD3, was obtained by disrupting the crmA gene by using transposition mutagenesis. Despite a fully functional gapA gene, the amount of GapA detected in this mutant was considerably lower than in HA+ clonal variants, suggesting that, in absence of CrmA, GapA might be subjected to a higher turnover.
The ruminant pathogen Mycoplasma agalactiae possesses a family of abundantly expressed variable surface lipoproteins called Vpmas. Phenotypic switches between Vpma members have previously been correlated with DNA rearrangements within a locus of vpma genes and are proposed to play an important role in disease pathogenesis. In this study, six vpma genes were characterized in the M. agalactiae type strain PG2. All vpma genes clustered within an 8-kb region and shared highly conserved 5′ untranslated regions, lipoprotein signal sequences, and short N-terminal sequences. Analyses of the vpma loci from consecutive clonal isolates showed that vpma DNA rearrangements were site specific and that cleavage and strand exchange occurred within a minimal region of 21 bp located within the 5′ untranslated region of all vpma genes. This process controlled expression of vpma genes by effectively linking the open reading frame (ORF) of a silent gene to a unique active promoter sequence within the locus. An ORF (xer1) immediately adjacent to one end of the vpma locus did not undergo rearrangement and had significant homology to a distinct subset of genes belonging to the λ integrase family of site-specific xer recombinases. It is proposed that xer1 codes for a site-specific recombinase that is not involved in chromosome dimer resolution but rather is responsible for the observed vpma-specific recombination in M. agalactiae.
The pathogenicity and prevalence of Mycoplasma penetrans, a Mycoplasma species recently isolated from humans, are still debated. A major P35 antigen, which is used as target epitope in serological assays, was shown to be a phase-variable lipid-associated membrane protein (LAMP). In this study, we performed a comparative analysis of the LAMP patterns from five M. penetrans clinical isolates and from the type strain. Sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis profiles and immunoblots with sera serially collected from an M. penetrans-infected patient indicated that these strains expressed different LAMP repertoires. Furthermore, the intraclonal variation in the expression of LAMPs (P34A, P34B, P35, and P38) was monitored by immunoblot analysis with three specific monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) developed in this study and MAb 7 to P35. The phase variation of these LAMPs occurs in an independent manner, with frequencies of variation ranging from 10−2 to 10−4 per cell per generation. Consistent with their amphipathic nature, the P34B and P38 antigens were found exposed at the cell surface. The DNA sequence encoding the P38 antigen was defined and found to be related to those of the P35 gene and other putative LAMP-encoding genes, suggesting that these variable antigens are encoded by a family of related genes. Finally, the serum samples from an M. penetrans-infected patient contained antibodies that reacted with a P36 antigen expressed in different M. penetrans strains but not in the isolate recovered from this patient. This result suggested that in vivo phase variation of P36 occurred, which would support a role for these LAMP variations in avoiding the host's immune vigilance.
The ability of the widespread avian pathogen Mycoplasma gallisepticum to invade cultured human epithelial cells (HeLa-229) and chicken embryo fibroblasts (CEF) was investigated by using the gentamicin invasion assay and a double immunofluorescence microscopic technique for accurate localization of cell-associated mycoplasmas. The presence of intracellular mycoplasmas in both cell lines was clearly demonstrated, with organisms entering the eukaryotic cells within 20 min. Internalized mycoplasmas have the ability to leave the cell, but also to survive within the intracellular space over a 48-h period. Frequencies of invasion were shown to differ between the two cell lines, but were also considerably dependent on the mycoplasma input population. Of the prototype strain R, a low-passage population in artificial medium, Rlow, was capable of active cell invasion, while a high-passage population, Rhigh, showed adherence to but nearly no uptake into HeLa-229 and CEF. By passaging Rlow and Rhigh multiple times through HeLa-229 cells, the invasion frequency was significantly increased. Taken together, these findings demonstrate that M. gallisepticum has the capability of entering nonphagocytic host cells that may provide this pathogen with the opportunity for resisting host defenses and selective antibiotic therapy, establishing chronic infections, and passing through the respiratory mucosal barrier to cause systemic infections.
Mycoplasma bovis induces various clinical
manifestations in cattle, such as mastitis, arthritis, and pneumonia.
We have evaluated the immunoreactivity of three variable surface
proteins (Vsps) of M. bovis, namely VspA, VspB, and VspC,
with sera collected from herds with mycoplasmosis or from cattle
experimentally infected with M. bovis. Western blot
analysis revealed that the Vsps are the predominant antigens recognized
by the host humoral response during M. bovis infection. The
immunoreactivity of VspA, VspB, and VspC with host antibodies was
independent of the clinical manifestations, the geographical origin of
the M. bovis isolates, the mode of infection, and the
animal’s history. Moreover, the results showed that Vsp-specific host
antibodies can be detected about 10 days after experimental infection
and for up to several months. The full-length or truncated versions of
the VspA product were overexpressed in Escherichia coli as
fusion proteins (FP-VspA). Recombinant products showed strong
immunoreactivity with the Vsp-specific monoclonal antibodies 1A1 and
1E5, with the corresponding epitopes localized at the VspA N-terminal
and C-terminal ends, respectively. Anti-M. bovis sera of
cattle naturally or experimentally infected also strongly recognized
the full-length FP-VspA. The seroreactivity of sera collected from
cattle between 6 and 10 days after experimental infection was weaker
with truncated versions of VspA lacking the 1E5 epitope than with the
full-length VspA or the truncated versions lacking the 1A1 epitope.
Overall, the results indicate that the Vsps, despite their inter- and
intraclonal variability, may be applied as target antigens in
serodiagnostic assays for epidemiological studies.
Phase variation of the major ureaplasma surface membrane protein, the multiple-banded antigen (MBA), with its counterpart, the UU376 protein, was recently discussed as a result of DNA inversion occurring at specific inverted repeats. Two similar inverted repeats to the ones within the mba locus were found in the genome of Ureaplasma parvum serovar 3; one within the MBA N-terminal paralogue UU172 and another in the adjacent intergenic spacer region. In this report, we demonstrate on both genomic and protein level that DNA inversion at these inverted repeats leads to alternating expression between UU172 and the neighbouring conserved hypothetical ORF UU171. Sequence analysis of this phase-variable ‘UU172 element’ from both U. parvum and U. urealyticum strains revealed that it is highly conserved among both species and that it also includes the orthologue of UU144. A third inverted repeat region in UU144 is proposed to serve as an additional potential inversion site from which chimeric genes can evolve. Our results indicate that site-specific recombination events in the genome of U. parvum serovar 3 are dynamic and frequent, leading to a broad spectrum of antigenic variation by which the organism may evade host immune responses.
Phase variation of two loci (‘mba locus’ and ‘UU172 phase-variable element’) in Ureaplasma parvum serovar 3 has been suggested as result of site-specific DNA inversion occurring at short inverted repeats. Three potential tyrosine recombinases (RipX, XerC, and CodV encoded by the genes UU145, UU222, and UU529) have been annotated in the genome of U. parvum serovar 3, which could be mediators in the proposed recombination event. We document that only orthologs of the gene xerC are present in all strains that show phase variation in the two loci. We demonstrate in vitro binding of recombinant maltose-binding protein fusions of XerC to the inverted repeats of the phase-variable loci, of RipX to a direct repeat that flanks a 20-kbp region, which has been proposed as putative pathogenicity island, and of CodV to a putative dif site. Co-transformation of the model organism Mycoplasma pneumoniae M129 with both the ‘mba locus’ and the recombinase gene xerC behind an active promoter region resulted in DNA inversion in the ‘mba locus’. Results suggest that XerC of U. parvum serovar 3 is a mediator in the proposed DNA inversion event of the two phase-variable loci.
Ureaplasma; tyrosine recombinase; protein–DNA interaction; electrophoretic mobility shift assay; phase variation; dif site