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J Bacteriol. 2001 Oct;183(20):5834-9.

Measuring virulence factor expression by the pathogenic bacterium Photorhabdus luminescens in culture and during insect infection.

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  • 1Department of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Bath, Bath BA2 7AY, United Kingdom.


During insect infection Photorhabdus luminescens emits light and expresses virulence factors, including insecticidal toxin complexes (Tcs) and an RTX-like metalloprotease (Prt). Using quantitative PCR and protein assays, we describe the expression patterns of these factors both in culture and during insect infection and compare them to the associated bacterial growth curves. In culture, light and active Prt protease are produced in stationary phase. Tca also appears in stationary phase, whereas Tcd is expressed earlier. These patterns seen in a culture flask are strikingly similar to those observed during insect infection. Thus, in an infected insect, bacteria grow exponentially until the time of insect death at approximately 48 h, when both light and the virulence factors Prt protease and Tca are produced. In contrast, Tcd appears much earlier in insect infection. However, at present, the biological significance of this difference in timing of the production of the two toxins in unclear. This is the first documentation of the expression of Tcs and Prt in an insect and highlights the malleability of Photorhabdus as a model system for bacterial infection.

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