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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1999 May;65(5):1843-8.

Export of virulence genes and Shiga toxin by membrane vesicles of Escherichia coli O157:H7.

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Department of Food Science, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08901, USA.


Membrane vesicles released by Escherichia coli O157:H7 into culture medium were purified and analyzed for protein and DNA content. Electron micrographs revealed vesicles that are spherical, range in size from 20 to 100 nm, and have a complete bilayer. Analysis of vesicle protein by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis demonstrates vesicles that contain many proteins with molecular sizes similar to outer membrane proteins and a number of cellular proteins. Immunoblot (Western) analysis of vesicles suggests the presence of cell antigens. Treatment of vesicles with exogenous DNase hydrolyzed surface-associated DNA; PCR demonstrated that vesicles contain DNA encoding the virulence genes eae, stx1 and stx2, and uidA, which encodes for beta-galactosidase. Immunoblot analysis of intact and lysed, proteinase K-treated vesicles demonstrate that Shiga toxins 1 and 2 are contained within vesicles. These results suggest that vesicles contain toxic material and transfer experiments demonstrate that vesicles can deliver genetic material to other gram-negative organisms.

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