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Vet Microbiol. 2012 Sep 14;159(1-2):130-40. doi: 10.1016/j.vetmic.2012.03.029. Epub 2012 Mar 27.

The virB-encoded type IV secretion system is critical for establishment of infection and persistence of Brucella ovis infection in mice.

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Departamento de Clínica e Cirurgia Veterinária, Escola de Veterinária, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil.


Brucella spp. are gram-negative intracellular bacterial pathogens that cause chronic infections. Brucella virulence factors include a type IV secretion system (T4SS) and its lipopolysaccharide (LPS), which are essential for persistence. However, the role of the virB-encoded T4SS has not been investigated in naturally rough Brucella species such as Brucella ovis. In this study, male 6-week old BALBc mice were infected with B. ovis, Brucella abortus, and their respective ΔvirB2 mutant strains. During early infection, B. ovis and B. abortus wild type strains were similarly recovered from spleen. Interestingly, in contrast to ΔvirB2 B. abortus that was recovered at similar levels when compared to the wild type strain, the ΔvirB2 B. ovis was markedly attenuated as early as 24h post infection (hpi). The ΔvirB2 B. ovis was unable to survive and multiply in murine peritoneal macrophages and extracellularly within the peritoneal cavity at 12 and 24 hpi with lower splenic colonization than the parental strain at 6, 12 and 24 hpi. In contrast, wild type B. abortus and ΔvirB2 B. abortus had a similar kinetics of infection in this model. As expected, the T4SS was essential for intracellular replication of smooth and rough strains in RAW macrophages at 48 hpi. These results suggest that T4SS is important for survival of B. ovis in murine model, and that a T4SS deficient B. ovis strain is cleared at earlier stages of infection when compared to a similar B. abortus mutant.

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