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Infect Immun. 2013 May;81(5):1618-24. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00112-13. Epub 2013 Mar 4.

Role of the GapA and CrmA cytadhesins of Mycoplasma gallisepticum in promoting virulence and host colonization.

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Institute of Bacteriology, Mycology and Hygiene, Department of Pathobiology, University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Vienna, Austria.


Mycoplasma gallisepticum is an important avian pathogen that commonly induces chronic respiratory disease in chicken. To better understand the mycoplasma factors involved in host colonization, chickens were infected via aerosol with two hemadsorption-negative (HA(-)) mutants, mHAD3 and RCL2, that were derived from a low passage of the pathogenic strain R (Rlow) and are both deficient in the two major cytadhesins GapA and CrmA. After 9 days of infection, chickens were monitored for air sac lesions and for the presence of mycoplasmas in various organs. The data showed that mHAD3, in which the crmA gene has been disrupted, did not promote efficient colonization or significant air sac lesions. In contrast, the spontaneous HA(-) RCL2 mutant, which contains a point mutation in the gapA structural gene, successfully colonized the respiratory tract and displayed an attenuated virulence compared to that of Rlow. It has previously been shown in vitro that the point mutation of RCL2 spontaneously reverts with a high frequency, resulting in on-and-off switching of the HA phenotype. Detailed analyses further revealed that such an event is not responsible for the observed in vivo outcome, since 98.4% of the mycoplasma populations recovered from RCL2-infected chickens still display the mutation and the associated phenotype. Unlike Rlow, however, RCL2 was unable to colonize inner organs. These findings demonstrate the major role played by the GapA and CrmA proteins in M. gallisepticum host colonization and virulence.

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