The role of the twin-arginine translocation pathway in Escherichia coli K1 pathogenicity in the African migrator locust,Locusta migratoria

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Abstract

Escherichia coli K1 infection is a major cause of neonatal meningitis, with high rates of mortality and disability. Despite years of research, only a small number of factors contributing to E. coli K1 virulence have been identified. The Tat (twin-arginine translocation) protein export system is found in the cytoplasmic membrane of E. coli and is involved in the transport of folded proteins. In vivo and ex vivo models using the African migratory locust, Locusta migratoria, were employed to explore the role of Tat pathway in E. coli K1 virulence using tat-deletion mutants. Groups of locusts were infected and mortality was recorded at 24-h intervals. The findings revealed that ΔtatA, ΔtatAC and Δtat produced levels of mortality similar to wild-type E. coli K1, with >78% mortality recorded within 72 h. Bacteraemia was determined from haemolymph obtained 3 and 24 h postinfection. Again, wild-type and ΔtatA produced similar levels of bacteraemia. In contrast, ΔtatAC and Δtat produced lower levels of bacteraemia. Following injection of bacteria into isolated head capsules ex vivo, all mutants invaded the CNS. Overall, these studies showed no evidence of involvement of the Tat pathway in locust mortality but suggest its possible role in bacteraemia.

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