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Infect Immun. 2003 Oct;71(10):5461-71.

Characterization and pathogenic significance of Vibrio vulnificus antigens preferentially expressed in septicemic patients.

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National Research Laboratory of Molecular Microbial Pathogenesis, Institute of Vibrio Infection, Genome Research Center for Enteropathogenic Bacteria, Chonnam National University Medical School, 5 Hak-Dong, Dong-Ku, Kwangju 501-746, South Korea.


Many important virulence genes of pathogenic bacteria are preferentially expressed in vivo. We used the recently developed in vivo-induced antigen technology (IVIAT) to identify Vibrio vulnificus genes induced in vivo. An expression library of V. vulnificus was screened by colony blot analysis by using pooled convalescent-phase serum that had been thoroughly adsorbed with in vitro-expressed V. vulnificus whole cells and lysates. Twelve clones were selected, and the sequences of the insert DNAs were analyzed. The DNA sequences showed homologies with genes encoding proteins of diverse functions: these functions included chemotaxis (a methyl-accepting chemotaxis protein), signaling (a GGDEF-containing protein and a putative serine/threonine kinase), biosynthesis and metabolism (PyrH, PurH, and IlvC), secretion (TatB and plasmid Achromobacter secretion [PAS] factor), transcriptional activation (IlvY and HlyU), and the activity of a putative lipoprotein (YaeC). In addition, one identified open reading frame encoded a hypothetical protein. Isogenic mutants of the 12 in vivo-expressed (ive) genes were constructed and tested for cytotoxicity. Cytotoxic activity of the mutant strains, as measured by lactate dehydrogenase release from HeLa cells, was nearly abolished in pyrH, purH, and hlyU mutants. The intraperitoneal 50% lethal dose in mice increased by ca. 10- to 50-fold in these three mutants. PyrH and PurH seem to be essential for in vivo growth. HlyU appears to be one of the master regulators of in vivo virulence expression. The successful identification of ive genes responsible for the in vivo bacterial virulence, as done in the present study, demonstrates the usefulness of IVIAT for the detection of new virulence genes.

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