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Infect Immun. 1995 Mar;63(3):1055-61.

Molecular analysis of the plasmid-encoded hemolysin of Escherichia coli O157:H7 strain EDL 933.

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Institut für Hygiene und Mikrobiologie, Universität Wüzburg, Germany.


In this study, we determined the nucleotide sequence of the 5.4-kb SalI restriction fragment of the recombinant plasmid pEO40-1, cloned from the large plasmid of enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) O157:H7 strain EDL 933. This revealed two open reading frames which shared approximately 60% homology to the hlyC and hlyA genes of the E. coli alpha-hemolysin (alpha-hly) operon. We termed these genes EHEC-hlyA and EHEC-hlyC to distinguish them from the alpha-hly genes. Preliminary sequence analysis indicated that another open reading frame homolog to the hlyB gene is located close to the 3' end of EHEC-hlyA. The predicted molecular masses of the EHEC-hlyA and EHEC-hlyC gene products were 107 and 19.9 kDa, respectively. The EHEC hemolysin protein (EHEC-Hly) was not secreted into the culture supernatant by the strain EDL 933. However, hemolytic activity was found in the broth culture supernatant after transforming EDL 933 with the recombinant plasmid pRSC6 carrying the hlyB and hlyD genes from the E. coli alpha-hemolysin operon. The EHEC hemolysin was precipitated and used as an antigen for immunoblot analysis. This demonstrated that 19 of 20 reconvalescent-phase serum samples from patients with hemolytic uremic syndrome reacted specifically with the antigen; conversely, only 1 of 20 control serum samples demonstrated reactivity. To investigate the prevalence of EHEC hemolysin genes in diarrheagenic E. coli, a PCR was developed to specifically detect EHEC-hlyA. All Shiga-like toxin-producing O157 strains and 12 of 25 Shiga-like toxin-producing non-O157 strains were PCR positive; strains of other categories of diarrheagenic E. coli were PCR negative. All PCR-positive strains hybridized with the CVD 419 probe. We found the CVD 419 probe to be identical to the 3.4-kb HindIII fragment of plasmid pEO40 carrying most of the EHEC-hlyA gene and a part of the putative EHEC-hlyB gene. In this study, the newly discovered EHEC hemolysin was shown to be responsible for the enterohemolytic phenotype and demonstrated to be related but not identical to alpha-hemolysin. The EHEC hemolysin appears to have clinical importance because it occurs in all O157 strains tested and is reactive to sera of patients with hemolytic uremic syndrome.

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