Construction and Phenotypic Evaluation of a Vibrio vulnificus vvpE Mutant for Elastolytic Protease

Department of Food Science and Technology, Institute of Biotechnology, Chonnam National University, Kwang-Ju, 500-757, South Korea.
Infection and Immunity (Impact Factor: 4.07). 10/2000; DOI: 10.1128/IAI.68.9.5096-5106.2000
Source: PubMed Central

ABSTRACT Vibrio vulnificus is an opportunistic gram-negative pathogen that commonly contaminates oysters. Predisposed individuals who consume raw oysters can die within days from sepsis, and even otherwise healthy people are susceptible to serious wound infection after contact with contaminated seafood or seawater. Numerous secreted and cell-associated virulence factors have been proposed to account for the fulminating and destructive nature of V. vulnificus infections. Among the putative virulence factors is an elastolytic metalloprotease. We cloned and sequenced the vvpE gene encoding an elastase of V. vulnificus ATCC 29307. The functions of the elastase were assessed by constructing vvpE insertional knockout mutants and evaluating phenotypic changes in vitro and in mice. Although other types of protease activity were still observed in vvpE mutants, elastase activity was completely absent in the mutants and was restored by reintroducing the recombinant vvpE gene. In contrast to previous characterization of elastase as a potential virulence factor, which was demonstrated by injecting the purified protein into animals, inactivation of the V. vulnificus vvpE gene did not affect the ability of the bacteria to infect mice and cause damage, either locally in subcutaneous tissues or systemically in the liver, in both iron-treated and normal mice. Furthermore, a vvpE mutant was not affected with regard to cytolytic activity toward INT407 epithelial cells or detachment of INT407 cells from culture dishes in vitro. Therefore, it appears that elastase is less important in the pathogenesis of V. vulnificus than would have been predicted by examining the effects of administering purified proteins to animals. However, V. vulnificus utilizes a variety of virulence factors; hence, the effects of inactivation of elastase alone could be masked by other compensatory virulence factors.

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    ABSTRACT: VvhA produced by Vibrio vulnificus exhibits cytolytic activity to human cells including erythrocytes. Since hemolysis by VvhA may provide iron for bacterial growth and pathogenicity, we investigated the expression of VvhA to elucidate the regulatory roles of Fur, a major transcription factor controlling iron-homeostasis. Fur repressed the transcription of vvhBA operon via binding to the promoter region. However, hemolysin content and hemolytic activity were lowered in cell-free supernatant of fur mutant. This discrepancy between the levels of vvhA transcript and VvhA protein in fur mutant was caused by exoproteolytic activities of the elastase VvpE and another metalloprotease VvpM, which were also regulated by Fur. vvpE gene expression was repressed by Fur via binding to the Fur-box homologous region. Regulation of VvpM expression by Fur did not occur at the level of vvpM transcription. In vitro proteolysis assays showed that both proteases efficiently degraded VvhA. In addition, the extracellular levels of VvhA were higher in culture supernatants of vvpE or vvpM mutants than in the wild type. Thus this study demonstrates that Fur regulates hemolysin production at the transcription level of the vvhBA operon and at the post-translation level by regulating the expressions of two VvhA-degrading exoproteases, VvpE and VvpM.
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