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1.  Distribution of the leptospiral immunoglobulin-like (lig) genes in pathogenic Leptospira species and application of ligB to typing leptospiral isolates 
Journal of Medical Microbiology  2009;58(Pt 9):1173-1181.
The family of leptospiral immunoglobulin-like (lig) genes comprises ligA, ligB and ligC. This study used PCR to demonstrate the presence of lig genes among serovars from a collection of leptospiral strains and clinical isolates. Whilst ligA and ligC appeared to be present in a limited number of pathogenic serovars, the ligB gene was distributed ubiquitously among all pathogenic strains. None of the lig genes were detected among intermediate or saprophytic Leptospira species. It was also shown that, similar to the previously characterized secY gene, a short specific PCR fragment of ligB could be used to correctly identify pathogenic Leptospira species. These findings demonstrate that ligB is widely present among pathogenic strains and may be useful for their reliable identification and classification.
doi:10.1099/jmm.0.009175-0
PMCID: PMC2887549  PMID: 19528180
2.  The Success of Acinetobacter Species; Genetic, Metabolic and Virulence Attributes 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e46984.
An understanding of why certain Acinetobacter species are more successful in causing nosocomial infections, transmission and epidemic spread in healthcare institutions compared with other species is lacking. We used genomic, phenotypic and virulence studies to identify differences between Acinetobacter species. Fourteen strains representing nine species were examined. Genomic analysis of six strains showed that the A. baumannii core genome contains many genes important for diverse metabolism and survival in the host. Most of the A. baumannii core genes were also present in one or more of the less clinically successful species. In contrast, when the accessory genome of an individual A. baumannii strain was compared to a strain of a less successful species (A. calcoaceticus RUH2202), many operons with putative virulence function were found to be present only in the A. baumannii strain, including the csu operon, the acinetobactin chromosomal cluster, and bacterial defence mechanisms. Phenotype microarray analysis showed that compared to A. calcoaceticus (RUH2202), A. baumannii ATCC 19606T was able to utilise nitrogen sources more effectively and was more tolerant to pH, osmotic and antimicrobial stress. Virulence differences were also observed, with A. baumannii ATCC 19606T, A. pittii SH024, and A. nosocomialis RUH2624 persisting and forming larger biofilms on human skin than A. calcoaceticus. A. baumannii ATCC 19606T and A. pittii SH024 were also able to survive in a murine thigh infection model, whereas the other two species were eradicated. The current study provides important insights into the elucidation of differences in clinical relevance among Acinetobacter species.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046984
PMCID: PMC3483291  PMID: 23144699
3.  Inactivation of clpB in the Pathogen Leptospira interrogans Reduces Virulence and Resistance to Stress Conditions ▿ †  
Infection and Immunity  2011;79(9):3711-3717.
Leptospira interrogans is the causative agent of leptospirosis, which is an emerging zoonotic disease. Resistance to stress conditions is largely uncharacterized for this bacterium. We therefore decided to analyze a clpB mutant that we obtained by random transposon mutagenesis. The mutant did not produce any of the two isoforms of ClpB. The clpB mutant exhibited growth defects at 30° and 37°C and in poor nutrient medium and showed increased susceptibility to oxidative stress, whereas the genetically complemented strain was restored in ClpB expression and in vitro wild-type growth. We also showed that the clpB mutant was attenuated in virulence in an animal model of acute leptospirosis. Our findings demonstrate that ClpB is involved in the general stress response. The chaperone is also necessary, either directly or indirectly, for the virulence of the pathogen L. interrogans.
doi:10.1128/IAI.05168-11
PMCID: PMC3165490  PMID: 21730091
4.  Preliminary Characterization of Mus musculus–Derived Pathogenic Strains of Leptospira borgpetersenii Serogroup Ballum in a Hamster Model 
Human and animal leptospirosis caused by Leptospira spp. belonging to serogroup Ballum has increased worldwide in the past decade. We report the isolation and serologic and molecular characterization of four L. borgpetersenii serogroup Ballum isolates obtained from Mus musculus, and preliminary virulence studies. These isolates are useful for diagnosis of leptospirosis and for epidemiologic studies of its virulence and pathogenic mechanisms.
doi:10.4269/ajtmh.2010.10-0120
PMCID: PMC2911180  PMID: 20682877
5.  Expanding the Genetic Toolbox for Leptospira Species by Generation of Fluorescent Bacteria ▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2010;76(24):8135-8142.
Our knowledge of the genetics and molecular basis of the pathogenesis associated with Leptospira, in comparison to those of other bacterial species, is very limited. An improved understanding of pathogenic mechanisms requires reliable genetic tools for functional genetic analysis. Here, we report the expression of gfp and mRFP1 genes under the control of constitutive spirochetal promoters in both saprophytic and pathogenic Leptospira strains. We were able to reliably measure the fluorescence of Leptospira by fluorescence microscopy and a fluorometric microplate reader-based assay. We showed that the expression of the gfp gene had no significant effects on growth in vivo and pathogenicity in L. interrogans. We constructed an expression vector for L. biflexa that contains the lacI repressor, an inducible lac promoter, and gfp as the reporter, demonstrating that the lac system is functional in Leptospira. Green fluorescent protein (GFP) expression was induced by the addition of isopropyl-β-d-thiogalactopyranoside (IPTG) in L. biflexa transformants harboring the expression vector. Finally, we showed that GFP can be used as a reporter to assess promoter activity in different environmental conditions. These results may facilitate further advances for studying the genetics of Leptospira spp.
doi:10.1128/AEM.02199-10
PMCID: PMC3008249  PMID: 21037299
6.  Development of Transcriptional Fusions to Assess Leptospira interrogans Promoter Activity 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(3):e17409.
Background
Leptospirosis is a zoonotic infectious disease that affects both humans and animals. The existing genetic tools for Leptospira spp. have improved our understanding of the biology of this spirochete as well as the interaction of pathogenic leptospires with the mammalian host. However, new tools are necessary to provide novel and useful information to the field.
Methodology and Principal Findings
A series of promoter-probe vectors carrying a reporter gene encoding green fluorescent protein (GFP) were constructed for use in L. biflexa. They were tested by constructing transcriptional fusions between the lipL41, Leptospiral Immunoglobulin-like A (ligA) and Sphingomielynase 2 (sph2) promoters from L. interrogans and the reporter gene. ligA and sph2 promoters were the most active, in comparison to the lipL41 promoter and the non-induced controls. The results obtained are in agreement with LigA expression from the L. interrogans Fiocruz L1-130 strain.
Conclusions
The novel vectors facilitated the in vitro evaluation of L. interrogans promoter activity under defined growth conditions which simulate the mammalian host environment. The fluorescence and rt-PCR data obtained closely reflected transcriptional regulation of the promoters, thus demonstrating the suitability of these vectors for assessing promoter activity in L. biflexa.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0017409
PMCID: PMC3060810  PMID: 21445252
7.  Monitoring Leptospira Strain Collections: The Need for Quality Control 
The purpose of this study was to perform a 16S sequence-based quality control of two Leptospira strain collections. 16S rRNA gene sequencing was used to verify two Leptospira reference collections provided by the World Health Organization and maintained at a reference laboratory for leptospirosis in Brazil. Among the 89 serovars evaluated, four conflicting strains were identified in one of the collections. Although 16S rRNA gene sequencing cannot identify Leptospira beyond the species level, it is suitable for the identification of contamination and quality control of leptospiral reference collections. This study highlights the importance of the availability of high-quality 16S rRNA sequences in public databases. In addition, it emphasizes the need for periodical verifications and quality control of Leptospira reference collections.
doi:10.4269/ajtmh.2010.09-0558
PMCID: PMC2803514  PMID: 20065000
8.  Bioinformatics Describes Novel Loci for High Resolution Discrimination of Leptospira Isolates 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(10):e15335.
Background
Leptospirosis is one of the most widespread zoonoses in the world and with over 260 pathogenic serovars there is an urgent need for a molecular system of classification. The development of multilocus sequence typing (MLST) schemes for Leptospira spp. is addressing this issue. The aim of this study was to identify loci with potential to enhance Leptospira strain discrimination by sequencing-based methods.
Methodology and Principal Findings
We used bioinformatics to evaluate pre-existing loci with the potential to increase the discrimination of outbreak strains. Previously deposited sequence data were evaluated by phylogenetic analyses using either single or concatenated sequences. We identified and evaluated the applicability of the ligB, secY, rpoB and lipL41 loci, individually and in combination, to discriminate between 38 pathogenic Leptospira strains and to cluster them according to the species they belonged to. Pairwise identity among the loci ranged from 82.0–92.0%, while interspecies identity was 97.7–98.5%. Using the ligB-secY-rpoB-lipL41 superlocus it was possible to discriminate 34/38 strains, which belong to six pathogenic Leptospira species. In addition, the sequences were concatenated with the superloci from 16 sequence types from a previous MLST scheme employed to study the association of a leptospiral clone with an outbreak of human leptospirosis in Thailand. Their use enhanced the discriminative power of the existing scheme. The lipL41 and rpoB loci raised the resolution from 81.0–100%, but the enhanced scheme still remains limited to the L. interrogans and L. kirschneri species.
Conclusions
As the first aim of our study, the ligB-secY-rpoB-lipL41 superlocus demonstrated a satisfactory level of discrimination among the strains evaluated. Second, the inclusion of the rpoB and lipL41 loci to a MLST scheme provided high resolution for discrimination of strains within L. interrogans and L. kirschneri and might be useful in future epidemiological studies.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0015335
PMCID: PMC2955542  PMID: 21124728
9.  Genetic diversity of the Leptospiral immunoglobulin-like (Lig) genes in pathogenic Leptospira spp. 
Recent serologic, immunoprotection, and pathogenesis studies identified the Lig proteins as key virulence determinants in interactions of leptospiral pathogens with the mammalian host. We examined the sequence variation and recombination patterns of ligA, ligB, and ligC among 10 pathogenic strains from five Leptospira species. All strains were found to have intact ligB genes and genetic drift accounting for most of the ligB genetic diversity observed. The ligA gene was found exclusively in L. interrogans and L. kirschneri strains, and was created from ligB by a two-step partial gene duplication process. The aminoterminal domain of LigB and the LigA paralog were essentially identical (98.5 ± 0.8% mean identity) in strains with both genes. Like ligB, ligC gene variation also followed phylogenetic patterns, suggesting an early gene duplication event. However, ligC is a pseudogene in several strains, suggesting that LigC is not essential for virulence. Two ligB genes and one ligC gene had mosaic compositions and evidence for recombination events between related Leptospira species was also found for some ligA genes. In conclusion, the results presented here indicate that Lig diversity has important ramifications for the selection of Lig polypeptides for use in diagnosis and as vaccine candidates. This sequence information will aid the identification of highly conserved regions within the Lig proteins and improve upon the performance characteristics of the Lig proteins in diagnostic assays and in subunit vaccine formulations with the potential to confer heterologous protection.
doi:10.1016/j.meegid.2008.10.012
PMCID: PMC2812920  PMID: 19028604
Leptospirosis; Lig; Pathogenesis; Molecular evolution; Sequence analysis
10.  Genome-Wide Transposon Mutagenesis in Pathogenic Leptospira Species▿ ‡  
Infection and Immunity  2008;77(2):810-816.
Leptospira interrogans is the most common cause of leptospirosis in humans and animals. Genetic analysis of L. interrogans has been severely hindered by a lack of tools for genetic manipulation. Recently we developed the mariner-based transposon Himar1 to generate the first defined mutants in L. interrogans. In this study, a total of 929 independent transposon mutants were obtained and the location of insertion determined. Of these mutants, 721 were located in the protein coding regions of 551 different genes. While sequence analysis of transposon insertion sites indicated that transposition occurred in an essentially random fashion in the genome, 25 unique transposon mutants were found to exhibit insertions into genes encoding 16S or 23S rRNAs, suggesting these genes are insertional hot spots in the L. interrogans genome. In contrast, loci containing notionally essential genes involved in lipopolysaccharide and heme biosynthesis showed few transposon insertions. The effect of gene disruption on the virulence of a selected set of defined mutants was investigated using the hamster model of leptospirosis. Two attenuated mutants with disruptions in hypothetical genes were identified, thus validating the use of transposon mutagenesis for the identification of novel virulence factors in L. interrogans. This library provides a valuable resource for the study of gene function in L. interrogans. Combined with the genome sequences of L. interrogans, this provides an opportunity to investigate genes that contribute to pathogenesis and will provide a better understanding of the biology of L. interrogans.
doi:10.1128/IAI.01293-08
PMCID: PMC2632054  PMID: 19047402
11.  CHARACTERIZATION OF VIRULENCE OF Leptospira ISOLATES IN A HAMSTER MODEL 
Vaccine  2008;26(31):3892-3896.
Effort has been made to identify protective antigens in order to develop a recombinant vaccine against leptospirosis. Several attempts failed to conclusively demonstrate efficacy of vaccine candidates due to the lack of an appropriate model of lethal leptospirosis. The purposes of our study were: (i) to test the virulence of leptospiral isolates from Brazil, which are representative of important serogroups that cause disease in humans and animals; and (ii) to standardize the lethal dose 50% (LD50) for each of the virulent strains using a hamster (Mesocricetus auratus) model. Five of seven Brazilian isolates induced lethality in a hamster model, with inocula lower than 200 leptospires. Histopathological examination of infected animals showed typical lesions found in both natural and experimental leptospirosis. Results described here demonstrated the potential use of Brazilian isolates as highly virulent strains in challenge experiments using hamster as an appropriate animal model for leptospirosis. Furthermore these strains may be useful in heterologous challenge studies which aim to evaluate cross-protective responses induced by subunit vaccine candidates.
doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2008.04.085
PMCID: PMC2519131  PMID: 18547690
Leptospira; leptospirosis; lethal dose; isolation; animal model; virulence
12.  Serum antileptospiral agglutinins in freshwater turtles from Southern Brazil 
Brazilian Journal of Microbiology  2009;40(2):227-230.
In this study, we observed the presence of antileptospiral agglutinins in freshwater turtles of two urban lakes of Pelotas, Southern Brazil. Forty animals (29 Trachemys dorbigny and 11 Phrynops hilarii) were captured and studied. Attempts to isolate leptospires from blood and urine samples were unsuccessful. Serum samples (titer > 100) reactive to pathogenic strains were observed in 11 animals. These data encourage surveys of pet turtles to evaluate the risk of transmission of pathogenic leptospires to humans.
doi:10.1590/S1517-83822009000200003
PMCID: PMC3769731  PMID: 24031348
Leptospirosis; Turtles; Agglutinins
13.  Leptospira noguchii and Human and Animal Leptospirosis, Southern Brazil 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2009;15(4):621-623.
doi:10.3201/eid1504.071669
PMCID: PMC2671420  PMID: 19331754
Zoonoses; Leptospira noguchii; leptospirosis; isolation; taxonomy; letter
14.  Isolation of Leptospira noguchii from sheep 
Veterinary microbiology  2006;121(1-2):144-149.
The main goal of this study was to obtain new isolates of Leptospira spp. from sheep. A total of ten kidney samples and 44 blood samples were collected from sheep slaughtered in Pelotas, Southern Brazil. One isolate was obtained which was identified by 16S rRNA gene sequencing and serogrouping to be Leptospira noguchii serogroup Autumnalis. Microscopic agglutination test (MAT) evaluation revealed that 4.5% of the sheep sera reacted against the Autumnalis serogroup. This is the first report of isolation of L. noguchii from sheep. Together these findings indicate that L. noguchii infections may be a potentially important veterinary problem in this domestic animal species.
doi:10.1016/j.vetmic.2006.11.010
PMCID: PMC1868676  PMID: 17222993
leptospirosis; Leptospira noguchii; isolation; serogrouping; sheep; Brazil

Results 1-14 (14)