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Microb Pathog. 2007 Oct;43(4):127-46. Epub 2007 May 18.

Further characterization of a type III secretion system (T3SS) and of a new effector protein from a clinical isolate of Aeromonas hydrophila--part I.

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Department of Microbiology , The University of Texas Medical Branch, 301 University Blvd., UTMB Galveston, TX 77555-1070, USA.


A type III secretion system (T3SS)-associated cytotoxin, AexT, with ADP-ribosyltransferase activity and homology to Pseudomonas aeruginosa bifuncational toxins ExoT/S, was recently identified from a fish pathogen Aeromonas salmonicida. In this study, we reported the molecular characterization of an aexT-like toxin gene (designated as aexU) from a diarrheal isolate SSU of A. hydrophila. The aexU gene was 1539bp in length and encoded a protein of 512 amino acid (aa) residues. The NH(2)-terminus of AexU (aa residues 1-231) exhibited a 67% homology with the NH(2)-terminus of AexT from A. salmonicida. Importantly, its COOH-terminus (aa residues 232-512) had no homology with any known functional proteins in the database; however, the full-length AexU retained ADP-ribosyltransferase activity. The expression and subsequent secretion of AexU was T3SS dependent, as inactivation of the ascV gene that codes for an inner-membrane component of the T3SS channel from the wild-type (WT) bacterium, blocked translocation of AexU in HT-29 human colonic epithelial cells. We provided evidence that inactivation of acrV and axsE genes (homologs of lcrV and exsE in Yersinia species and P. aeruginosa, respectively) from A. hydrophila SSU, altered expression and/or secretion of AexU. We deleted an aexU gene from the WT, as well as from the DeltaaopB mutant, of A. hydrophila, generating a single knockout (DeltaaexU) and a double knockout mutant, DeltaaopB/DeltaaexU. Increased phagocytosis was observed in RAW264.7 murine macrophages infected with the DeltaaopB/DeltaaexU mutant, as compared to macrophages when infected with the parental DeltaaopB strain. Further, mice infected with the DeltaaexU mutant had a 60% survival rate, compared to animals infected with the WT or the DeltaaexU-complemented strain that caused 90-100% of the animals to die at a 2-3 LD(50s) dose. Immunization of mice with the recombinant AexU protected them from subsequent lethal challenge dose by the WT bacterium. Finally, we detected specific anti-AexU antibodies in the sera of mice that survived challenge by the WT bacterium, which may indicate that AexU plays an important role in the pathogenesis of Aeromonas infections.

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