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Cell Host Microbe. 2008 Nov 13;4(5):425-33. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2008.10.002.

Metabolic diversity in Campylobacter jejuni enhances specific tissue colonization.

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Section of Microbial Pathogenesis, Boyer Center for Molecular Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, 295 Congress Avenue, New Haven, CT 06536, USA.


Campylobacter jejuni is a leading cause of foodborne illness in industrialized countries. This pathogen exhibits significant strain-to-strain variability, which results in differences in virulence potential and clinical presentations. Here, we report that acquisition of the capacity to utilize specific nutrients enhanced the ability of a highly pathogenic strain of C. jejuni to colonize specific tissues. The acquisition of a gene encoding a gamma-glutamyltranspeptidase enabled this strain to utilize glutamine and glutathione and enhanced its ability to colonize the intestine. Furthermore, the acquisition of a DNA segment, which added a sec-dependent secretion signal to an otherwise cytoplasmic asparaginase, allowed this pathogen to utilize asparagine and to more efficiently colonize the liver. Our results reveal that subtle genetic changes in a bacterial pathogen result in significant changes in its ability to colonize specific tissues. In addition, these studies revealed remarkably specific nutritional requirements for a pathogen to effectively colonize different tissues.

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