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Infect Immun. 2013 Jul;81(7):2478-87. doi: 10.1128/IAI.01454-12. Epub 2013 Apr 29.

A phenotype at last: essential role for the Yersinia enterocolitica Ysa type III secretion system in a Drosophila melanogaster S2 cell model.

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Department of Genetics, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA.


The highly pathogenic Yersinia enterocolitica strains have a chromosomally encoded type III secretion system (T3SS) that is expressed and functional in vitro only when the bacteria are cultured at 26 °C. Mutations that render this system nonfunctional are slightly attenuated in the mouse model of infection only following an oral inoculation and only at early time points postinfection. The discrepancy between the temperature required for the Ysa gene expression and the physiological temperature required for mammalian model systems has made defining the role of this T3SS challenging. Therefore, we explored the use of Drosophila S2 cells as a model system for studying Ysa function. We show here that Y. enterocolitica is capable of infecting S2 cells and replicating intracellularly to high levels, an unusual feature of this pathogen. Importantly, we show that the Ysa T3SS is required for robust intracellular replication. A secretion-deficient mutant lacking the secretin gene, ysaC, is defective in replication within S2 cells, marking the first demonstration of a pronounced Ysa-dependent virulence phenotype. Establishment of S2 cells as a model for Y. enterocolitica infection provides a versatile tool to elucidate the role of the Ysa T3SS in the life cycle of this gastrointestinal pathogen.

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