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PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e36149. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0036149. Epub 2012 Apr 30.

Polyamines are required for virulence in Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium.

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Department of Veterinary Disease Biology, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Frederiksberg, Denmark.


Sensing and responding to environmental cues is a fundamental characteristic of bacterial physiology and virulence. Here we identify polyamines as novel environmental signals essential for virulence of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, a major intracellular pathogen and a model organism for studying typhoid fever. Central to its virulence are two major virulence loci Salmonella Pathogenicity Island 1 and 2 (SPI1 and SPI2). SPI1 promotes invasion of epithelial cells, whereas SPI2 enables S. Typhimurium to survive and proliferate within specialized compartments inside host cells. In this study, we show that an S. Typhimurium polyamine mutant is defective for invasion, intracellular survival, killing of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans and systemic infection of the mouse model of typhoid fever. Virulence of the mutant could be restored by genetic complementation, and invasion and intracellular survival could, as well, be complemented by the addition of exogenous putrescine and spermidine to the bacterial cultures prior to infection. Interestingly, intracellular survival of the polyamine mutant was significantly enhanced above the wild type level by the addition of exogenous putrescine and spermidine to the bacterial cultures prior to infection, indicating that these polyamines function as an environmental signal that primes S. Typhimurium for intracellular survival. Accordingly, experiments addressed at elucidating the roles of these polyamines in infection revealed that expression of genes from both of the major virulence loci SPI1 and SPI2 responded to exogenous polyamines and was reduced in the polyamine mutant. Together our data demonstrate that putrescine and spermidine play a critical role in controlling virulence in S. Typhimurium most likely through stimulation of expression of essential virulence loci. Moreover, our data implicate these polyamines as key signals in S. Typhimurium virulence.

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