Serotype differences and lack of biofilm formation characterize Yersinia pseudotuberculosis infection of the Xenopsylla cheopis flea vector of Yersinia pestis


Erickson, DL; Jarrett, CO; Wren, BW; Hinnebusch, BJ; (2006) Serotype differences and lack of biofilm formation characterize Yersinia pseudotuberculosis infection of the Xenopsylla cheopis flea vector of Yersinia pestis. Journal of bacteriology, 188 (3). pp. 1113-1119. ISSN 0021-9193 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1128/JB.188.3.1113-1119.2006

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Abstract

Yersinia pestis, the agent of plague, is usually transmitted by fleas. To produce a transmissible infection, Y. pestis colonizes the flea midgut and forms a biofilm in the proventricular valve, which blocks normal blood feeding. The enteropathogen Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, from which Y. pestis recently evolved, is not transmitted by fleas. However, both Y. pestis and Y. pseudotuberculosis form biofilms that adhere to the external mouthparts and block feeding of Caenorhabditis elegans nematodes, which has been proposed as a model of Y.pestis-flea interactions. We compared the ability of Y. pestis and Y. pseudotuberculosis to infect the rat flea Xenopsylla cheopis and to produce biofilms in the flea and in vitro. Five of 18 Y.pseudotuberculosis strains, encompassing seven serotypes, including all three serotype 03 strains tested, were unable to stably colonize the flea midgut. The other strains persisted in the flea midgut for 4 weeks but did not increase in numbers, and none of the 18 strains colonized the proventriculus or produced a biofilm in the flea. Y. pseudotuberculosis strains also varied greatly in their ability to produce biofilms in vitro, but there was no correlation between biofilm phenotype in vitro or on the surface of C. elegans and the ability to colonize or block fleas. Our results support a model in which a genetic change in the Y. pseudotuberculosis progenitor of Y. pestis extended its pre-existing ex vivo biofilm-forming ability to the flea gut environment, thus enabling proventricular blockage and efficient flea-borne transmission.

Item Type: Article
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases > Dept of Pathogen Molecular Biology
Research Centre: TB Centre
PubMed ID: 16428415
Web of Science ID: 234840800031
URI: http://researchonline.lshtm.ac.uk/id/eprint/12131

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