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J Clin Microbiol. 1989 Apr;27(4):644-50.

Evaluation of DNA colony hybridization and other techniques for detection of virulence in Yersinia species.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia.


The virulence of yersiniae varies according to (i) species and biotype and (ii) possession of a 67- to 72-kilobase virulence plasmid. Y. pestis, Y. pseudotuberculosis, and biotypes 1B, 2, 3, 4, and 5 of Y. enterocolitica are inherently virulent but express full virulence only when in possession of a virulence plasmid. Other Yersinia species and biotypes 1A and 3B of Y. enterocolitica are seldom implicated in disease. In this study, we prepared DNA probes from eight nonoverlapping regions of the virulence plasmid of a strain of Y. enterocolitica and from the inv and ail chromosomal loci responsible for the invasive capacity of Y. enterocolitica and Y. pseudotuberculosis. The probes were used in colony hybridization experiments to investigate 156 yersiniae of various species and biotypes and of differing virulence. Probes prepared from the inv gene of Y. pseudotuberculosis hybridized with Y. pseudotuberculosis and Y. pestis only, whereas an analogous probe prepared from Y. enterocolitica hybridized with all species and biotypes of yersiniae (but not with other bacteria) regardless of virulence or potential virulence. Probes prepared from the ail region of Y. enterocolitica reacted almost exclusively with Y. enterocolitica strains of pathogenic biotypes. Probes prepared from the virulence plasmid of a serogroup O:8, biotype 1B isolate of Y. enterocolitica identified virulent yersiniae in all species with a high degree of sensitivity and specificity. These probes did not react with yersiniae of avirulent biotypes or species. Of the other assays of virulence evaluated (calcium dependence, binding of crystal violet, and pyrazinamidase activity), binding of crystal violet provided a simple means for identifying plasmid-bearing strains.

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