Characterization of the BatI (Bacteroides aerotolerance) operon in Bacteroides fragilis: isolation of a B. fragilis mutant with reduced aerotolerance and impaired growth in in vivo model systems


Michael H. Malamy. E-mail mmalamy1@opal.tufts. edu; Tel. (+1) 617 636 6756; Fax (+1) 617 636 0337.


YT135.2.8, a Tn4400′ insertion mutant of Bacteroides fragilis strain TM4000, grows poorly when used to infect Monika or Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cell monolayers and is outcompeted by wild-type strains in mixed infections. YT135.2.8 also shows defects in the rat granuloma pouch model system in monoculture and is completely outcompeted by the wild-type strain in a mixed infection. In addition, this mutant shows defects in a new model system consisting of CHO suspension cell columns. All of these defects may be explained by the finding that YT135.2.8 shows decreased tolerance to exposure to atmospheric oxygen (less aerotolerant). The monolayer growth defect (MGD) of YT135.2.8 can be influenced significantly by the presence of sulphur-containing reducing agents (cysteine, dithiothreitol, thiodiglycol) or the non-sulphur reducing agent Tris-(2-carboxylethyl)phosphine (TCEP). The defects in YT135.2.8 can be complemented by a 6.6 kb fragment of the B. fragilis chromosome. DNA sequencing of this fragment and of the regions flanking the Tn4400′ insertion in the B. fragilis chromosome revealed the presence of five open reading frames, corresponding to genes bat (Bacteroides aerotolerance) A, B, C, D, E, which form the BatI operon; Tn4400′ inserted within batD. All of the hypothetical proteins possess one or more membrane-spanning domains. BatA and BatB show high similarity to each other but, like BatD, they show no match to sequences of known function in the databases. BatC and BatE contain 2–4 repeated sequences similar to the tetratricopeptide repeats (TPRs) seen in many eukaryotic proteins. The function of TPR sequences in protein interactions in other systems leads to the suggestion that the Bat proteins form a complex. The BatI complex may be involved in the generation or export of reducing power equivalents to the periplasm of the B. fragilis cell.