Modulators of Vibrio cholerae predator interaction and virulence

University dissertation from Umeå : Umeå University

Abstract: Vibrio cholerae, the causal agent of cholera typically encodes two critical virulence factors: cholera toxin (CT), which is primarily responsible for the diarrhoeal purge, and toxin-co-regulated pilus (TCP), an essential colonisation factor. Nontoxigenic strains expressing TCP can efficiently acquire the CT gene through lysogenic conversion with CTX?, a filamentous phage that encodes CT and uses TCP as a receptor.  V. cholerae is a Gram-negative bacterium and a natural inhabitant of estuarine and coastal waters throughout both temperate and tropical regions of the world. In the aquatic environment, V. cholerae encounters several environmental stresses, such as change in salinity, UV stress, nutrient limitation, temperature fluctuations, viral infections and protozoan predation. To fully understand the pathogenic and virulence potential of V. cholerae, knowledge is required of its interactions with, not only human, but also environmental factors. By using the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as host model, we were able to identify a previously uncharacterised protein, the extracellular protease PrtV. PrtV was shown to be required for the killing of. elegans and also necessary for survival from grazing by the ciliate Tetrahymena pyriformis and the flagellate Cafeteria roenbergensis. The PrtV protein, which belongs to a M6 family of metallopeptidases was cloned and purified for further characterisations. The purified PrtV was cytotoxic against the human intestinal cell line HCT8. By using human blood plasma, fibrinogen, fibronectin and plasminogen were identified as candidate substrates for the PrtV protease.Outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) are released to the surroundings by most Gram-negative bacteria through “bulging and pinching” of the outer membrane.  OMVs have been shown to contain many virulence factors important in pathogenesis. Therefore, we investigated the association of PrtV with OMVs. PrtV was not associated with OMVs from the wild type O1 strain. In contrast, in an LPS mutant lacking two sugar chains in the core oligosaccharide PrtV was found to be associated with the OMVs. The OMV-associated PrtV was shown to be proteolytically and cytotoxically active.V. cholerae strains are grouped into >200 serogroups. Only the O1 and O139 serogroups have been associated with pandemic cholera, a severe diarrhoeal disease.  All other serogroups are collectively referred to as non-O1 non-O139 V. cholerae. Non-O1 non-O139 V. cholerae can cause gastroenteritis and extraintestinal infections, but unlike O1 and O139 strains of V. cholerae, little is known about the virulence gene content and their potential to become human pathogens. We analysed clinical and environmental non-O1 non-O139 isolates for their putative virulence traits. None of them carry the genes encoding CT or the TCP, but other putative virulence factors were present in these isolates. The incidence of serum resistance was found to vary considerably and was independent of encapsulation. Three strains were strongly serum-resistant, and these same strains could also kill C. elegans.