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Med Dosw Mikrobiol. 2012;64(1):19-27.

[Occurence of pili genes in Corynebacterium diphtheriae strains].

[Article in Polish]

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  • 1Zakład Bakteriologii Narodowego Instytutu Zdrowia Publicznego-Państwowego Zakładu Higieny w Warszawie.



Adhesion of pathogenic bacteria to host cells is a crucial step during infection. The presence of specific adhesion factors on the bacterial cell surface determines the tropism of the pathogen to the tissues expressing certain surface receptors. The adhesion is mediated primarily by filamentous structures called pili. Three distinct pilus structures can be produced by Corynebacterium diphtheriae: SpaA-, SpaD- and SpaH-type pili. Pilus genes encode a total of nine pilus proteins, named SpaA through SpaI, and six sortases, named SrtA through SrtF. All the pilus genes are located on pathogenicity islands and can be acquired and lost by different strains. The aim of presented studies was assessment of occurence of pili genes among C. diphtheriae strains isolated from different infections, including invasive infections, in Poland.


Thirty-one toxigenic and nontoxigenic C. diphtheriae strains isolated from wounds, blood, nose and pharynx were investigated for presence of 15 pili genes. The studies were conducted using PCR. Gene specific primers were designed on the basis of the complete genome sequence of C. diphtheriae NCTC 13129.


All the nontoxigenic C. diphtheriae strains isolated from invasive infections possess every tested genes in contrast to toxigenic strains that revealed highly mosaic structure of pili gene clusters. Differences in gene content were detected in SpaA- and SpaH-type pili gene clusters. Complete set of genes in SpaD-type pili gene cluster was detected in all but two strains. The two strains did not possess any of SpaD-type pili genes.


Invasiveness of C. diphtheriae strains could be related to adhesive factors. Results of our studies suggest that ability to express all types of pili is indispensable for causing invasive infections by nontoxigenic C. diphtheriae. Whereas full set ofpili genes is not necessary for causing classical diphtheria.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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