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Int J Med Microbiol. 2000 Oct;290(4-5):313-6.

Characterization of a plasmid region involved in Bacillus anthracis toxin production and pathogenesis.

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Unité des Toxines et Pathogénie Bactériennes, URA 1858 du CNRS, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France.


The germination of spores within the host is the initial step of anthrax infection. We have shown, using immunofluorescence staining, confocal scanning laser microscopy and image cytometry analysis, that the alveolar macrophage is the primary site of B. anthracis germination in a murine inhalation infection model. B. anthracis germinated inside macrophages, in vesicles derived from the phagosomal compartment. We have demonstrated that the toxin genes and their trans-activator, AtxA, are expressed within the macrophages after germination. It was also shown that the pXO1 plasmid strongly enhanced capsule formation and that this influence is mediated by AtxA. This indicates the existence of a regulon where AtxA is the regulatory protein acting on genes located on different plasmids. We identified a tricistronic germination operon gerX located between the pag and atxA genes on the 40-kb toxin-encoding fragment of pXO1 . Analysis of a gerX null mutant indicated that gerX-encoded proteins are involved in the virulence of B. anthracis.

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