Characterization and genetic complementation of a Brucella abortus high- temperature-requirement A (htrA) deletion mutant

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In order to evaluate the biological function of the Brucella abortus high- temperature-requirement A (HtrA) stress response protein homolog, the majority of the htrA gene was deleted from the chromosome of B. abortus 2308 via gene replacement. In contrast to the parental strain, the resulting htrA deletion mutant, designated PHE1, failed to grow on solid medium at 40°C and demonstrated increased sensitivity to killing by H2O2 and O2- in disk sensitivity assays. BALB/c mice were infected with strains 2308 and PHE1 to assess the effect of the htrA mutation on virulence, and significantly fewer brucellae were recovered from the spleens of mice infected with PHE1 than from those of mice infected with 2308 at 1 week postinfection. Genetic complementation studies were performed to confirm the relationship between the htrA mutation and the phenotype observed for PHE1. Plasmid pRIE1 was constructed by inserting a 1.9-kb EcoRI fragment encoding the B. abortus htrA gene into the broad-host-range plasmid pBBR1MCS. Introduction of pRIE1 into PHE1 relieved the temperature- and H2O2-sensitive phenotypes of this mutant in vitro, and PHE1 (pRIE1) colonized the spleens of BALB/c mice at levels equivalent to those of the parental 2308 strain at 1 week postinfection. These results support our previous proposal that the B. abortus htrA gene product functions as a stress response protein and further suggest that this protein contributes to virulence. These studies also demonstrate the utility of the broad-host-range plasmid pBBR1MCS for genetic complementation studies in Brucella spp., establishing a key reagent for more detailed genetic analysis of this important zoonotic pathogen.

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Infection and Immunity

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