The identification of Mycobacterium marinum genes differentially expressed in macrophage phagosomes using promoter fusions to green fluorescent protein

Authors

  • Lucia P. Barker,

    1. Microscopy Branch, Rocky Mountain Laboratories, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, 903 South 4th Street, Hamilton, MT 59840, USA.
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  • Diane M. Brooks,

    1. Microscopy Branch, Rocky Mountain Laboratories, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, 903 South 4th Street, Hamilton, MT 59840, USA.
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  • P. L. C. Small

    1. Microscopy Branch, Rocky Mountain Laboratories, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, 903 South 4th Street, Hamilton, MT 59840, USA.
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Lucia P. Barker , E-mail LBARKER@NIH.GOV; Tel. (406) 363 9252; Fax (406) 363 9371.

Abstract

Mycobacterium marinum, like Mycobacterium tuberculosis, is a slow-growing pathogenic mycobacteria that is able to survive and replicate in macrophages. Using the promoter-capture vector pFPV27, we have constructed a library of 200–1000 bp fragments of M. marinum genomic DNA inserted upstream of a promoterless green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene. Only those plasmids that contain an active promoter will express GFP. Macrophages were infected with this fusion library, and phagosomes containing fluorescent bacteria were isolated. Promoter constructs that were more active intracellularly were isolated with a fluorescence-activated cell sorter, and inserts were partially sequenced. The promoter fusions expressed intracellularly exhibited homology to mycobacterial genes encoding, among others, membrane proteins and biosynthetic enzymes. Intracellular expression of GFP was 2–20 times that of the same clones grown in media. Several promoter constructs were transformed into Mycobacterium smegmatis, Mycobacterium bovis BCG and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. These constructs were positive for GFP expression in all mycobacterial strains tested. Sorting fluorescent bacteria in phagosomes circumvents the problem of isolating a single clone from macrophages, which may contain a mixed bacterial population. This method has enabled us to isolate 12 M. marinum clones that contain promoter constructs differentially expressed in the macrophage.

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