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Mol Microbiol. 2000 Nov;38(3):543-51.

Identification and characterization of in vivo attenuated mutants of Brucella melitensis.

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Unité de Recherche en Biologie Moléculaire (URBM), Laboratoire d'Immunologie et de Microbiologie, University of Namur, rue de Bruxelles 61, 5000 Namur, Belgium.


Brucella melitensis 16M is a Gram-negative alpha2-proteobacterium responsible for abortion in goats and for Malta fever in humans. This facultative intracellular pathogen invades into and survives within both professional and non-professional phagocytes. Signature-tagged mutagenesis (STM) was used to identify genes required for the in vivo pathogenesis of Brucella. A library of transposon mutants was screened in a murine infection model. Out of 672 mutants screened, 20 were not recovered after a 5 day passage in BALB/c mice. The attenuation of 18 mutants was confirmed using an in vivo competition assay against the wild-type strain. The 18 mutants were characterized further for their ability to replicate in murine macrophages and in HeLa cells. The sequences disrupted by the transposon in the mutants have homology to genes coding for proteins of different functional classes: transport, amino acid and DNA metabolism, transcriptional regulation, peptidoglycan synthesis, a chaperone-like protein and proteins of unknown function. The mutants selected in this study provide new insights into the molecular basis of Brucella virulence.

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