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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2010 Feb;76(4):1053-61. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01420-09. Epub 2009 Dec 28.

Genes involved in yellow pigmentation of Cronobacter sakazakii ES5 and influence of pigmentation on persistence and growth under environmental stress.

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Institute for Food Safety and Hygiene, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Zurich, CH-8057 Zurich, Switzerland.


Cronobacter spp. are opportunistic food-borne pathogens that are responsible for rare but highly fatal cases of meningitis and necrotizing enterocolitis in neonates. While the operon responsible for yellow pigmentation in Cronobacter sakazakii strain ES5 was described recently, the involvement of additional genes in pigment expression and the influence of pigmentation on the fitness of Cronobacter spp. have not been investigated. Thus, the aim of this study was to identify further genes involved in pigment expression in Cronobacter sakazakii ES5 and to assess the influence of pigmentation on growth and persistence under conditions of environmental stress. A knockout library was created using random transposon mutagenesis. The screening of 9,500 mutants for decreased pigment production identified 30 colorless mutants. The mapping of transposon insertion sites revealed insertions in not only the carotenoid operon but also in various other genes involved in signal transduction, inorganic ions, and energy metabolism. To determine the effect of pigmentation on fitness, colorless mutants (DeltacrtE, DeltacrtX, and DeltacrtY) were compared to the yellow wild type using growth and inactivation experiments, a macrophage assay, and a phenotype array. Among other findings, the colorless mutants grew at significantly increased rates under osmotic stress compared to that of the yellow wild type while showing increased susceptibility to desiccation. Moreover, DeltacrtE and DeltacrtY exhibited increased sensitivity to UVB irradiation.

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