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Microbiology. 2007 Feb;153(Pt 2):483-9.

The iron- and temperature-regulated haemolysin YhlA is a virulence factor of Yersinia ruckeri.

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  • 1Area de Microbiología, Departamento de Biología Funcional, Facultad de Medicina, IUBA, Universidad de Oviedo, 33006 Oviedo, Asturias, Spain.


Yersinia ruckeri causes the enteric redmouth disease or yersiniosis, an important systemic fish infection. In an attempt to dissect the virulence mechanisms of this bacterium, a gene encoding a putative protein involved in the secretion/activation of a haemolysin (yhlB), which had been previously identified by in vivo expression technology, was further analysed. The gene yhlB precedes another ORF (yhlA) encoding a Serratia-type haemolysin. Other toxins belonging to this group have been identified in genomic analyses of human-pathogenic yersiniae, although their role and importance in pathogenicity have not been defined yet. In spite of its being an in vivo-induced gene, the expression of yhlA can be induced under certain in vitro conditions similar to those encountered in the host, as deduced from the results obtained by using a yhlB : : lacZY fusion. Thus, higher levels of expression were obtained at 18 degrees C, the temperature of occurrence of disease outbreaks, than at 28 degrees C, the optimal growth temperature. The expression of the haemolysin also increased under iron-starvation conditions. This confirmed the decisive role of iron and temperature as environmental cues that regulate and coordinate the expression of genes encoding extracellular factors involved in the virulence of Y. ruckeri. LD(50) and cell culture experiments, using yhlB and yhlA insertional mutant strains, demonstrated the participation of the haemolysin in the virulence of Y. ruckeri and also its cytolytic properties against the BF-2 fish cell line. Finally, a screening for the production of haemolytic activity and the presence of yhlB and yhlA genes in 12 Y. ruckeri strains proved once more the genetic homogeneity of this species, since all possessed both haemolytic activity and the yhlB and yhlA genes.

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