Effect of O side-chain length and composition on the virulence of Shigella flexneri 2a

Authors

  • Robin C. Sandlin,

    1. Department of Microbiology and Immunology, F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland 20814-4799, USA.
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  • Marcia B. Goldberg,

    1. Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York 10461-1602, USA.
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  • Anthony T. Maurelli

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Microbiology and Immunology, F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland 20814-4799, USA.
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  • The opinions or assertions contained herein are those of the authors and are not to be construed as official or reflecting the views of the Department of Defense or the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

Summary

IcsA of Shigella flexneri is required for intercellular spread and is located in the outer membrane at one pole of the bacterium, where it catalyses the polymerization of host-cell actin. The formation of the actin tail provides the force to move the bacterium in a unidirectional manner through the host-cell cytoplasm. We have previously demonstrated that rough lipopolysaccharide (LPS) mutants of S. flexneri 2a are avirulent and cannot form plaques in tissue-culture monolayers. This inability to form plaques is associated with non-polar localization of IcsA and loss of host-cell membrane-protrusion formation ('fireworks'). To define the minimal LPS structure required for fireworks formation, we constructed a strain of S. flexneri (BS497) that contains a mutation in rfc, encoding the O side-chain polymerase, and a strain, BS520, that possesses a defective O side-chain ligase due to a mutation in rfaL. BS497 produces a LPS that consists of a core with one repeat unit of the O side-chain, while BS520 produces a LPS consisting of a complete core with no O side-chain. BS497 remained invasive but did not form fireworks or plaques in tissue-culture monolayers and was negative in the Serény test. BS520 was invasive, generated reduced numbers of short fireworks, and made tiny plaques, but it was negative in the Serény test. Analysis of BS497 with anti-lcsA antibody demonstrated that IcsA was distributed over the entire cell surface. The distribution of IcsA on the surface of BS520 was predominantly unipolar, with some trail-back of IcsA label along the sides of the bacterium. A similar pattern was seen when infected monolayers were stained for polymerized actin. These results suggest that both the presence and the length of the O side-chain are important in the proper localization or maintenance of IcsA at the pole which subsequently affects the ability to form actin tails and produce fireworks. This reduced ability to form actin tails and fireworks results in a decreased ability of Shigella to move into adjacent host cells. To determine if the sugar composition of the O side-chain is important in the ability to form fireworks, the rfb region of S. flexneri2a was replaced with the rfb region from Escherichia coll serotype O8 or O25. Both hybrids were invasive, formed plaques, and gave positive Serény reactions. These results suggest that, unlike LPS length, the sugar composition of the O side-chain is not a critical requirement for the proper localization of IcsA and efficient intercellular movement.

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