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PLoS One. 2010 Aug 11;5(8):e11882. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0011882.

From grazing resistance to pathogenesis: the coincidental evolution of virulence factors.

Author information

1
Laboratoire d'Ecologie, CNRS UMR7625, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris Universitas, Paris, France. sadiba@snv.jussieu.fr

Abstract

To many pathogenic bacteria, human hosts are an evolutionary dead end. This begs the question what evolutionary forces have shaped their virulence traits. Why are these bacteria so virulent? The coincidental evolution hypothesis suggests that such virulence factors result from adaptation to other ecological niches. In particular, virulence traits in bacteria might result from selective pressure exerted by protozoan predator. Thus, grazing resistance may be an evolutionarily exaptation for bacterial pathogenicity. This hypothesis was tested by subjecting a well characterized collection of 31 Escherichia coli strains (human commensal or extra-intestinal pathogenic) to grazing by the social haploid amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum. We then assessed how resistance to grazing correlates with some bacterial traits, such as the presence of virulence genes. Whatever the relative population size (bacteria/amoeba) for a non-pathogenic bacteria strain, D. discoideum was able to phagocytise, digest and grow. In contrast, a pathogenic bacterium strain killed D. discoideum above a certain bacteria/amoeba population size. A plating assay was then carried out using the E. coli collection faced to the grazing of D. discoideum. E. coli strains carrying virulence genes such as iroN, irp2, fyuA involved in iron uptake, belonging to the B2 phylogenetic group and being virulent in a mouse model of septicaemia were resistant to the grazing from D. discoideum. Experimental proof of the key role of the irp gene in the grazing resistance was evidenced with a mutant strain lacking this gene. Such determinant of virulence may well be originally selected and (or) further maintained for their role in natural habitat: resistance to digestion by free-living protozoa, rather than for virulence per se.

PMID:
20711443
PMCID:
PMC2920306
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0011882
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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