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Microbes Infect. 2013 Jun;15(6-7):440-9. doi: 10.1016/j.micinf.2013.02.002. Epub 2013 Feb 16.

Erythritol triggers expression of virulence traits in Brucella melitensis.

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Department of Pathobiological Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


Erythritol is a four-carbon sugar preferentially utilized by Brucella spp. The presence of erythritol in the placentas of goats, cows, and pigs has been used to explain the localization of Brucella to these sites and the subsequent accumulation of large amounts of bacteria, eventually leading to abortion. Here we show that Brucella melitensis will also localize to an artificial site of erythritol within a mouse, providing a potential model system to study the pathogenesis of Brucella abortion. Immunohistological staining of the sites of erythritol within infected mice indicated a higher than expected proportion of extracellular bacteria. Ensuing experiments suggested intracellular B. melitensis was unable to replicate within macrophages in the presence of erythritol and that erythritol was able to reach the site of intracellular bacteria. The intracellular inhibition of growth was found to encourage the bacteria to replicate extracellularly rather than intracellularly, a particularly interesting development in Brucella pathogenesis. To determine the effect of erythritol on expression of B. melitensis genes, bacteria grown either with or without erythritol were analyzed by microarray. Two major virulence pathways were up-regulated in response to exposure to erythritol (the type IV secretion system VirB and flagellar proteins), suggesting a role for erythritol in virulence.

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