Relaxation of DNA supercoiling leads to increased invasion of epithelial cells and protein secretion byCampylobacter jejuni

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Invasion of intestinal epithelial cells by Campylobacter jejuni is a critical step during infection of the intestine by this important human pathogen. In this study we investigated the role played by DNA supercoiling in the regulation of invasion of epithelial cells and the mechanism by which this could be mediated. A significant correlation between more relaxed DNA supercoiling and an increased ability of C. jejuni strains to penetrate human epithelial cells was demonstrated. Directly inducing relaxation of DNA supercoiling in C. jejuni was shown to significantly increase invasion of epithelial cells. Mutants in the fibronectin binding proteins CadF and FlpA still displayed an increased invasion after treatment with novobiocin suggesting these proteins were not essential for the observed phenotype. However, a large increase in protein secretion from multiple C. jejuni strains upon relaxation of DNA supercoiling was demonstrated. This increase in protein secretion was not mediated by outer membrane vesicles and appeared to be dependent on an intact flagellar structure. This study identifies relaxation of DNA supercoiling as playing a key role in enhancing C. jejuni pathogenesis during infection of the human intestine and identifies proteins present in a specific invasion associated secretome induced by relaxation of DNA supercoiling.


Campylobacter jejuni is the leading cause of bacterial gastroenteritis and invasion has been identified as a key virulence determinant. This paper identifies for the first time an association between relaxed DNA topology and increased invasion. The study also reveals an increase in protein secretion when DNA supercoiling is relaxed which appears to be dependent on an intact flagellar structure and identifies the proteins involved in this invasion associated secretome.

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