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Infect Immun. 1999 Nov;67(11):5723-9.

Lysogenic conversion of environmental Vibrio mimicus strains by CTXPhi.

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Molecular Genetics Laboratory, International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, Dhaka-1000, Bangladesh.


The filamentous bacteriophage CTXPhi, which encodes cholera toxin (CT) in toxigenic Vibrio cholerae, is known to propagate by infecting susceptible strains of V. cholerae by using the toxin coregulated pilus (TCP) as its receptor and thereby causing the origination of new strains of toxigenic V. cholerae from nontoxigenic progenitors. Besides V. cholerae, Vibrio mimicus strains which are normally TCP negative have also been shown to occasionally produce CT and cause diarrhea in humans. We analyzed nontoxigenic V. mimicus strains isolated from surface waters in Bangladesh for susceptibility and lysogenic conversion by CTXPhi and studied the expression of CT in the lysogens by using genetically marked derivatives of the phage. Of 27 V. mimicus strains analyzed, which were all negative for genes encoding TCP but positive for the regulatory gene toxR, 2 strains (7.4%) were infected by CTX-KmPhi, derived from strain SM44(P27459 ctx::km), and the phage genome integrated into the host chromosome, forming stable lysogens. The lysogens spontaneously produced infectious phage particles in the supernatant fluids of the culture, and high titers of the phage could be achieved when the lysogens were induced with mitomycin C. This is the first demonstration of lysogenic conversion of V. mimicus strains by CTXPhi. When a genetically marked derivative of the replicative form of the CTXPhi genome carrying a functional ctxAB operon, pMSF9.2, was introduced into nontoxigenic V. mimicus strains, the plasmid integrated into the host genome and the strains produced CT both in vitro and inside the intestines of adult rabbits and caused mild-to-severe diarrhea in rabbits. This suggested that in the natural habitat infection of nontoxigenic V. mimicus strains by wild-type CTXPhi may lead to the origination of toxigenic V. mimicus strains which are capable of producing biologically active CT. The results of this study also supported the existence of a TCP-independent mechanism for infection by CTXPhi and showed that at least one species of Vibrio other than V. cholerae may contribute to the propagation of the phage.

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