Acidic pH: Enemy or ally for enteric bacteria?

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The first stress that foodborne pathogens find upon ingestion is the very acidic pH of the stomach of the host. In addition, intracellular pathogens like Salmonella are submitted to low pH inside the host cells. Two general acid survival systems are found in these organisms: acid resistance mechanisms and acid tolerance responses. These mechanisms involve the synthesis of a series of acid shock proteins. Only a subset of these proteins is directly involved in acid survival. This is related to the fact that low pH is not only a stress to cope with, but it is also an important signal that indicates to the bacterium that it is in a potential host environment and that triggers the induction of many virulence genes. Asr is an acid shock protein that supports growth of Escherichia coli at moderate acidity. In this issue of Virulence, Allam et al. investigate the role of STM1485, the homologous of asr in Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, in acid survival and virulence. Although STM1485 is not required for acid survival of S. enterica, it is necessary for intracellular replication in human epithelial cells and murine macrophages, and to prevent the progression of the Salmonella-containing vacuole along the degradative pathway. In addition, Allam et al. are able to show that the defects of the STM1485 mutant at the cellular level correlate with reduced virulence in the mouse model.

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