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Infect Immun. 2014 Feb;82(2):544-56. doi: 10.1128/IAI.01210-13. Epub 2013 Nov 18.

Loss of sigma factor RpoN increases intestinal colonization of Vibrio parahaemolyticus in an adult mouse model.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware, USA.


Vibrio parahaemolyticus is the leading cause of bacterial seafood-borne gastroenteritis worldwide, yet little is known about how this pathogen colonizes the human intestine. The alternative sigma factor RpoN/sigma-54 is a global regulator that controls flagellar synthesis, as well as a wide range of nonflagellar genes. We constructed an in-frame deletion mutation in rpoN (VP2670) in V. parahaemolyticus RIMD2210633, a clinical serogroup O3:K6 isolate, and examined the effects in vivo using a streptomycin-treated mouse model of colonization. We confirmed that deletion of rpoN rendered V. parahaemolyticus nonmotile, and it caused reduced biofilm formation and an apparent defect in glutamine synthetase production. In in vivo competition assays between the rpoN mutant and a wild-type RIMD2210633 strain marked with the β-galactosidase gene lacZ (WBWlacZ), the mutant colonized significantly more proficiently. Intestinal persistence competition assays also demonstrated that the rpoN mutant had enhanced fitness and outcompeted WBWlacZ. Mutants defective in the polar flagellum biosynthesis FliAP sigma factor also outcompeted WBWlacZ but not to the same level as the rpoN mutant, which suggested that lack of motility is not the sole cause of the fitness effect. In an in vitro growth competition assay in mouse intestinal mucus, the rpoN mutant also outcompeted the wild type and exhibited faster doubling times when grown in mucus and on individual components of mucus. Genes in the pathways for the catabolism of mucus sugars also had significantly higher expression levels in a ΔrpoN mutant than in the wild type. These data suggest that in V. parahaemolyticus, RpoN plays an important role in carbon utilization regulation, which may significantly affect host colonization.

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