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Res Microbiol. 2005 Mar;156(2):211-8. Epub 2004 Dec 10.

Transcriptional response of Rickettsia conorii exposed to temperature variation and stress starvation.

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Unité des Rickettsies, CNRS-UMR 6020, IFR48, Faculté de Médecine, 27, Bd Jean Moulin, Marseille, France.


Rickettsia conorii is an obligate intracellular bacterium transmitted to humans by Rhipicephalus sanguineus ticks. The success of this microorganism at surviving in nature implicates the ability to efficiently adapt to different environments, including the arthropod vector and the mammalian host. Numerous bacterial species possess a highly evolved system for stress adaptation. This so-called stringent response is mediated by guanosine 3',5'-bispyrophosphate and guanosine 3'-diphosphate 5'-triphosphate which are under spoT control in some Gram-negative bacteria. Interestingly, annotation of the R. conorii genome evidenced 5 spoT paralogs. We hypothesized that these spoT genes play a role in adaptation to environmental changes specifically encountered by rickettsiae during their different life cycles. Transcription of the spoT paralogs was examined by RT-PCR from infected Vero cells maintained in rich or deficient culture media, from infected C6/36 insect cells cultured at various temperatures and from infected ticks. Our results demonstrated that the 5 spoT genes can be transcribed. SpoT1 (RC0374) is only transcribed upon stringent response. Transcription of spoT3 (RC0888) was never observed in arthropod cells or ticks, but was specific to R. conorii RNA extracted from infected Vero cells. These results indicate that rickettsial spoT paralogs are independently transcribed, depending on the different infected hosts and the adaptive capacity of the pathogen. Bioinformatics analysis of these possibly encoded proteins is also reported.

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