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Keywords:

  • Caenorhabditis elegans;
  • cytotoxicity;
  • insertional mutagenesis;
  • iron transport;
  • LPS

The human opportunistic pathogen Serratia marcescens is a bacterium with a broad host range, and represents a growing problem for public health. Serratia marcescens kills Caenorhabditis elegans after colonizing the nematode's intestine. We used C.elegans to screen a bank of transposon-induced S.marcescens mutants and isolated 23 clones with an attenuated virulence. Nine of the selected bacterial clones also showed a reduced virulence in an insect model of infection. Of these, three exhibited a reduced cytotoxicity in vitro, and among them one was also markedly attenuated in its virulence in a murine lung infection model. For 21 of the 23 mutants, the transposon insertion site was identified. This revealed that among the genes necessary for full in vivo virulence are those that function in lipopolysaccharide (LPS) biosynthesis, iron uptake and hemolysin produc tion. Using this system we also identified novel conserved virulence factors required for Pseudomonas aeruginosa pathogenicity. This study extends the utility of C.elegans as an in vivo model for the study of bacterial virulence and advances the molecular understanding of S.marcescens pathogenicity.