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DNA Cell Biol. 2004 Nov;23(11):723-41.

Genetics of stress adaptation and virulence in toxigenic Vibrio cholerae.

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Molecular Genetics Laboratory, International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, Dhaka-1212, Bangladesh.


Vibrio cholerae, a Gram-negative bacterium belonging to the gamma-subdivision of the family Proteobacteriaceae is the etiologic agent of cholera, a devastating diarrheal disease which occurs frequently as epidemics. Any bacterial species encountering a broad spectrum of environments during the course of its life cycle is likely to develop complex regulatory systems and stress adaptation mechanisms to best survive in each environment encountered. Toxigenic V. cholerae, which has evolved from environmental nonpathogenic V. cholerae by acquisition of virulence genes, represents a paradigm for this process in that this organism naturally exists in an aquatic environment but infects human beings and cause cholera. The V. cholerae genome, which is comprised of two independent circular mega-replicons, carries the genetic determinants for the bacterium to survive both in an aquatic environment as well as in the human intestinal environment. Pathogenesis of V. cholerae involves coordinated expression of different sets of virulence associated genes, and the synergistic action of their gene products. Although the acquisition of major virulence genes and association between V. cholerae and its human host appears to be recent, and reflects a simple pathogenic strategy, the establishment of a productive infection involves the expression of many more genes that are crucial for survival and adaptation of the bacterium in the host, as well as for its onward transmission and epidemic spread. While a few of the virulence gene clusters involved directly with cholera pathogenesis have been characterized, the potential exists for identification of yet new genes which may influence the stress adaptation, pathogenesis, and epidemiological characteristics of V. cholerae. Coevolution of bacteria and mobile genetic elements (plasmids, transposons, pathogenicity islands, and phages) can determine environmental survival and pathogenic interactions between bacteria and their hosts. Besides horizontal gene transfer mediated by genetic elements and phages, the evolution of pathogenic V. cholerae involves a combination of selection mechanisms both in the host and in the environment. The occurrence of periodic epidemics of cholera in endemic areas appear to enhance this process.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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