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Infect Immun. 2005 Aug;73(8):4488-93.

Transcriptional profiling of Vibrio cholerae recovered directly from patient specimens during early and late stages of human infection.

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Division of Infectious Diseases, Gray-Jackson 504, Massachusetts General Hospital, 55 Fruit Street, Boston, MA 02114, USA.


Understanding gene expression by bacteria during the actual course of human infection may provide important insights into microbial pathogenesis. In this study, we evaluated the transcriptional profile of Vibrio cholerae, the causative agent of cholera, in clinical specimens from cholera patients. We collected samples of human stool and vomitus that were positive by dark-field microscopy for abundant vibrios and used a microarray to compare gene expression in organisms recovered directly from specimens collected during the early and late stages of human infection. Our results reveal that V. cholerae gene expression within the human host environment differs from patterns defined in in vitro models of pathogenesis. tcpA, the major subunit of the essential V. cholerae colonization factor, was significantly more highly expressed in early than in late stages of infection; however, the genes encoding cholera toxin were not highly expressed in either phase of human infection. Furthermore, expression of the virulence regulators toxRS and tcpPH was uncoupled. Interestingly, the pattern of gene expression indicates that the human upper intestine may be a uniquely suitable environment for the transfer of genetic elements that are important in the evolution of pathogenic strains of V. cholerae. These findings provide a more detailed assessment of the transcriptome of V. cholerae in the human host than previous studies of organisms in stool alone and have implications for cholera control and the design of improved vaccines.

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