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Infect Immun. 2014 Feb;82(2):731-44. doi: 10.1128/IAI.01117-13. Epub 2013 Dec 2.

Host-nonspecific iron acquisition systems and virulence in the zoonotic serovar of Vibrio vulnificus.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Ecology, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain.


The zoonotic serovar of Vibrio vulnificus (known as biotype 2 serovar E) is the etiological agent of human and fish vibriosis. The aim of the present work was to discover the role of the vulnibactin- and hemin-dependent iron acquisition systems in the pathogenicity of this zoonotic serovar under the hypothesis that both are host-nonspecific virulence factors. To this end, we selected three genes for three outer membrane receptors (vuuA, a receptor for ferric vulnibactin, and hupA and hutR, two hemin receptors), obtained single and multiple mutants as well as complemented strains, and tested them in a series of in vitro and in vivo assays, using eels and mice as animal models. The overall results confirm that hupA and vuuA, but not hutR, are host-nonspecific virulence genes and suggest that a third undescribed host-specific plasmid-encoded system could also be used by the zoonotic serovar in fish. hupA and vuuA were expressed in the internal organs of the animals in the first 24 h of infection, suggesting that they may be needed to achieve the population size required to trigger fatal septicemia. vuuA and hupA were sequenced in strains representative of the genetic diversity of this species, and their phylogenies were reconstructed by multilocus sequence analysis of selected housekeeping and virulence genes as a reference. Given the overall results, we suggest that both genes might form part of the core genes essential not only for disease development but also for the survival of this species in its natural reservoir, the aquatic environment.

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