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Infect Immun. 2002 Jul;70(7):3768-76.

H(2)O(2), which causes macrophage-related stress, triggers induction of expression of virulence-associated plasmid determinants in Rhodococcus equi.

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Laboratoire de Microbiologie de l'Environnement, IRBA, EA 956 USC INRA, Université de Caen, 14032 Caen Cedex, France.


The response of the intracellular pathogen Rhodococcus equi to H(2)O(2) treatment, a situation potentially encountered after the oxidative burst of alveolar macrophages, was analyzed. Compared to other bacteria, including Deinococcus radiodurans, R. equi showed exceptionally high resistance to this stress. A proteomic approach showed that four polypeptides present in the wild-type strain (85F) are missing in the plasmid-cured strain 85F(P-), and by using a DNA macroarray, we identified two plasmid-encoded vap genes, vapA and vapG, whose expression was highly induced by H(2)O(2) treatment. Whereas the transcript size of vapA was compatible with a monocistronic mRNA, the transcript of vapG was considerably longer. Rapid amplification of cDNA ends PCRs showed that the transcriptional start sites of the two operons were 69 and 269 nucleotides (nt) upstream of the start codon, respectively. Analysis of these leader sequences revealed the presence of a small open reading frame named podG, which encodes a sequence of 55 amino acids preceded by a putative ribosome binding site sequence in the vapG transcript. Taking this result into account, the untranslated leader of the podG/vapG operon is 87 nt. Alignment of this sequence with the leader sequences of vapA and vapD, genes previously shown to be induced by acid, revealed significant homologies. Since our results showed that vapA, vapD, and vapG are genes highly induced by macrophage-related stresses, their gene products may, within the Vap protein family, play a dominant role inside these phagocytic cells and may be the most promising candidates for vaccination strategies.

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