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FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2005 Sep;29(4):703-17. Epub 2004 Nov 26.

Lessons from signature-tagged mutagenesis on the infectious mechanisms of pathogenic bacteria.

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INSERM U-570, CHU Necker-Enfants Malades, Paris, France.


Studies on the genetic basis of bacterial pathogenicity have been undertaken for almost 30 years, but the development of new genetic tools in the past 10 years has considerably increased the number of identified virulence factors. Signature-tagged mutagenesis (STM) is one of the most powerful general genetic approaches, initially developed by David Holden and colleagues in 1995, which has now led to the identification of hundreds of new genes requested for virulence in a broad range of bacterial pathogens. We have chosen to present in this review, the most recent and/or most significant contributions to the understanding of the molecular mechanisms of bacterial pathogenicity among over 40 STM screens published to date. We will first briefly review the principle of the method and its major technical limitations. Then, selected studies will be discussed where genes implicated in various aspects of the infectious process have been identified (including tropism for specific host and/or particular tissues, interactions with host cells, mechanisms of survival and persistence within the host, and the crossing of the blood brain barrier). The examples chosen will cover intracellular as well as extracellular Gram-negative and Gram-positive pathogens.

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