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Infect Immun. 2000 Sep;68(9):5056-61.

Application of signature-tagged mutagenesis for identification of escherichia coli K1 genes that contribute to invasion of human brain microvascular endothelial cells.

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  • 1Division of Infectious Diseases, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California 90027, USA.


Escherichia coli K1 is the leading cause of gram-negative bacterial meningitis in neonates. It is principally due to our limited understanding of the pathogenesis of this disease that the morbidity and mortality rates remain unacceptably high. To identify genes required for E. coli K1 penetration of the blood-brain barrier (BBB), we used the negative selection strategy of signature-tagged transposon mutagenesis (STM) to screen mutants for loss or decreased invasion of human brain microvascular endothelial cells (HBMEC) which comprise the BBB. A total of 3,360 insertion mutants of E. coli K1 were screened, and potential HBMEC invasion mutants were subjected to a secondary invasion screen. Those mutants that failed to pass the serial invasion screens were then tested individually. Seven prototrophic mutants were found to exhibit significantly decreased invasive ability in HBMEC. We identified traJ and five previously uncharacterized loci whose gene products are necessary for HBMEC invasion by E. coli K1. In addition, cnf1, a gene previously shown to play a role in bacterial invasion, was identified. More importantly, a traJ mutant was attenuated in penetration of the BBB in the neonatal rat model of experimental hematogenous meningitis. This is the first in vivo demonstration that traJ is involved in the pathogenesis of E. coli K1 meningitis.

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