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An aerolysin-like enterotoxin from Vibrio splendidus may be involved in intestinal tract damage and mortalities in turbot, Scophthalmus maximus (L.), and cod, Gadus morhua L., larvae


  • DNA sequences have been deposited with EMBL under accession number AM157713.

T H Birkbeck, University Marine Biological Station, Millport, Isle of Cumbrae, Scotland KA28 0EG, UK (


Vibrio splendidus is a pathogen that can cause major losses during the early stages of larval turbot rearing when live feed (rotifers or Artemia) is used. As haemolytic bacteria have often been associated with larval rearing losses, we studied the role of the V. splendidus haemolysin in infection of larvae. From a bank of over 10 000 transposon mutants of V. splendidus, two different types of haemolysin-negative mutants were obtained. Both had lost virulence for larval fish, and immunohistochemistry showed that the transposon mutant studied colonized the turbot larval intestinal tract at a similar level to the wild-type organism but did not cause damage or signs of enteritis found with the wild-type organism. One transposon insertion site was located within a gene with high homology to aerolysin, the cytolytic toxin produced by several Aeromonas spp. The haemolysin, which we have termed vibrioaerolysin, had properties similar to aerolysin and osmotic protection studies showed that it formed pores in the membranes of erythrocytes of similar diameter to those of aerolysin. The Tn10 insertion site of the second transposon mutant was in an adjacent ToxR-like gene, suggesting that this might control expression of the vibrioaerolysin. The gastroenteritis caused by Aeromonas spp. in humans is considered to be due to production of aerolysin causing cyclic AMP-dependent chloride secretion in cells of the gastrointestinal tract. Damage to the intestinal tract of marine fish larvae could occur in a similar way, and it is possible that several Vibrio spp. found in the developing bacterial flora of the larval fish gut can secrete aerolysin-like toxins leading to death of larvae in the early rearing stages. Routine bacteriological screening on blood agar plates of live feed is recommended with measures to reduce the concentrations of haemolytic bacteria in rearing systems.

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