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Microb Pathog. 2009 Nov;47(5):243-51. doi: 10.1016/j.micpath.2009.08.005. Epub 2009 Aug 27.

Evaluation of a Yersinia pestis mutant impaired in a thermoregulated type VI-like secretion system in flea, macrophage and murine models.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX 77555, USA.


Type VI secretion systems (T6SSs) have been identified recently in several Gram-negative organisms and have been shown to be associated with virulence in some bacterial pathogens. A T6SS of Yersinia pestis CO92 (locus YPO0499-YPO0516) was deleted followed by investigation of the phenotype of this mutation. We observed that this T6SS locus of Y. pestis was preferentially expressed at 26 degrees C in comparison to 37 degrees C suggesting a possible role in the flea cycle. However, we found that the deletion of T6SS locus YPO0499-YPO0516 in Y. pestis CO92 had no effect on the ability of this strain to infect the oriental rat flea, Xenopsylla cheopis. Nevertheless, this mutant displayed increased intracellular numbers in macrophage-like J774.A1 cells after 20 h post-infection for bacterial cells pre-grown at 26 degrees C indicating that expression of this T6SS locus limited intracellular replication in macrophages. In addition, deletion of the YPO0499-YPO0516 locus reduced the uptake by macrophages of the Y. pestis mutant pre-grown at 37 degrees C, suggesting that this T6SS locus has phagocytosis-promoting activity. Further study of the virulence of the T6SS mutant in murine bubonic and inhalation plague models revealed no attenuation in comparison with the parental CO92 strain.

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