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Infect Immun. 2001 Oct;69(10):6463-74.

Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium response involved in attenuation of pathogen intracellular proliferation.

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  • 1Departamento de Genética, Facultad de Biología, Universidad de Sevilla, 41080 Seville, Spain.


Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium proliferates within cultured epithelial and macrophage cells. Intracellular bacterial proliferation is, however, restricted within normal fibroblast cells. To characterize this phenomenon in detail, we investigated the possibility that the pathogen itself might contribute to attenuating the intracellular growth rate. S. enterica serovar Typhimurium mutants were selected in normal rat kidney fibroblasts displaying an increased intracellular proliferation rate. These mutants harbored loss-of-function mutations in the virulence-related regulatory genes phoQ, rpoS, slyA, and spvR. Lack of a functional PhoP-PhoQ system caused the most dramatic change in the intracellular growth rate. phoP- and phoQ-null mutants exhibited an intracellular growth rate 20- to 30-fold higher than that of the wild-type strain. This result showed that the PhoP-PhoQ system exerts a master regulatory function for preventing bacterial overgrowth within fibroblasts. In addition, an overgrowing clone was isolated harboring a mutation in a previously unknown serovar Typhimurium open reading frame, named igaA for intracellular growth attenuator. Mutations in other serovar Typhimurium virulence genes, such as ompR, dam, crp, cya, mviA, spiR (ssrA), spiA, and rpoE, did not result in pathogen intracellular overgrowth. Nonetheless, lack of either SpiA or the alternate sigma factor RpoE led to a substantial decrease in intracellular bacterial viability. These results prove for the first time that specific serovar Typhimurium virulence regulators are involved in a response designed to attenuate the intracellular growth rate within a nonphagocytic host cell. This growth-attenuating response is accompanied by functions that ensure the viability of intracellular bacteria.

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