Picardeau, M., Brenot, A. & Saint Girons, I. First evidence for gene replacement in Leptospira spp. Inactivation of L. biflexa flaB results in non-motile mutants deficient in endoflagella. Mol. Microbiol. 40, 189-199

Unité de Bactériologie Moléculaire et Médicale, Institut Pasteur, 28 rue du docteur Roux, 75724 Paris Cedex 15, France.
Molecular Microbiology (Impact Factor: 4.42). 05/2001; 40(1):189-99. DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.2001.02374.x
Source: PubMed


Leptospira spp. offer many advantages as model bacteria for the study of spirochaetes. However, homologous recombination between introduced DNA and the corresponding chromosomal loci has never been demonstrated. A unique feature of spirochaetes is the presence of endoflagella between the outer membrane sheath and the cell cylinder. We chose the flaB flagellin gene, constituting the flagellar core, as a target for gene inactivation in the saprophyte Leptospira biflexa. The amino acid sequence of the FlaB protein of L. biflexa was most similar to those of spirochaetes Brachyspira hyodysenteriae (agent of swine dysentery), Leptospira interrogans (agent of leptospirosis) and Treponema pallidum (agent of syphilis). A suicide vector containing the L. biflexa flaB gene disrupted by a kanamycin marker was UV irradiated or alkali denatured before electroporation. This methodology allowed the selection of many kanamycin-resistant colonies resulting from single and double cross-over events at the flaB locus. The double recombinant mutants are non-motile, as visualized in both liquid and semi-solid media. In addition, a flaB mutant selected for further analysis was shown to be deficient in endoflagella by electron microscopy. However, most of the transformants had resulted from a single homologous recombination event, giving rise to the integration of the suicide vector. We evaluated the effect of the sacB and rpsL genes in L. biflexa as potential counterselectable markers for allelic exchange, and then used the rpsL system for the positive selection of flaB double recombinants in a streptomycin-resistant strain. Like the flaB mutant studied above, the Strr double cross-over mutant was non-motile and deficient in endoflagella. Our results demonstrate that FlaB is involved in flagella assembly and motility. They also show the feasibility of performing allelic replacement in Leptospira spp. by homologous recombination.

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    • "Here we describe a non-motile fliH mutant of B. hermsii that displayed a dramatic reduction in the synthesis of the FlaB protein and the number of periplasmic flagella. In contrast to other flagella-deficient mutants of spirochetes such as Treponema denticola or Leptospira biflexa, which retained their body helical shapes, the cells of the non-motile fliH mutant of B. hermsii were straight and similar to the flaB mutant of B. burgdorferi [30], [31], [32]. As demonstrated by DNA sequencing and complementation assays, this decrease of FlaB protein synthesis was directly linked to a unique genomic deletion in fliH (BH0289). "
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    ABSTRACT: Spirochetes are bacteria characterized in part by rotating periplasmic flagella that impart their helical or flat-wave morphology and motility. While most other bacteria rely on a transcriptional cascade to regulate the expression of motility genes, spirochetes employ post-transcriptional mechanism(s) that are only partially known. In the present study, we characterize a spontaneous non-motile mutant of the relapsing fever spirochete Borrelia hermsii that was straight, non-motile and deficient in periplasmic flagella. We used next generation DNA sequencing of the mutant's genome, which when compared to the wild-type genome identified a 142 bp deletion in the chromosomal gene encoding the flagellar export apparatus protein FliH. Immunoblot and transcription analyses showed that the mutant phenotype was linked to the posttranscriptional deficiency in the synthesis of the major periplasmic flagellar filament core protein FlaB. Despite the lack of FlaB, the amount of FlaA produced by the fliH mutant was similar to the wild-type level. The turnover of the residual pool of FlaB produced by the fliH mutant was comparable to the wild-type spirochete. The non-motile mutant was not infectious in mice and its inoculation did not induce an antibody response. Trans-complementation of the mutant with an intact fliH gene restored the synthesis of FlaB, a normal morphology, motility and infectivity in mice. Therefore, we propose that the flagellar export apparatus protein regulates motility of B. hermsii at the post-transcriptional level by influencing the synthesis of FlaB.
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    • "The suicide plasmid was transformed into E. coli DH5a for amplification in Luria-Bertani (LB) medium supplemented with both 100 μg/ml ampicillin and 50 μg/ml kanamycin, and then recovered for sequencing. The p2NILfliY-bla plasmid was then denatured by alkali treatment as previously described [56,57], and electrocompetent leptospires were prepared according to Saint Girons' protocol [58]. The competent leptospiral cells were mixed with 2 μg p2NILfliY-amp DNA, and then bathed on ice for 10 min for electrotransformation. "
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    ABSTRACT: Pathogenic Leptospira species cause leptospirosis, a zoonotic disease of global importance. The spirochete displays active rotative mobility which may contribute to invasion and diffusion of the pathogen in hosts. FliY is a flagellar motor switch protein that controls flagellar motor direction in other microbes, but its role in Leptospira, and paricularly in pathogenicity remains unknown. A suicide plasmid for the fliY gene of Leptospira interrogans serogroup Icterohaemorrhagiae serovar Lai strain Lai that was disrupted by inserting the ampicillin resistance gene (bla) was constructed, and the inactivation of fliY gene in a mutant (fliY-) was confirmed by PCR and Western Blot analysis. The inactivation resulted in the mRNA absence of fliP and fliQ genes which are located downstream of the fliY gene in the same operon. The mutant displayed visibly weakened rotative motion in liquid medium and its migration on semisolid medium was also markedly attenuated compared to the wild-type strain. Compared to the wild-type strain, the mutant showed much lower levels of adhesion to murine macrophages and apoptosis-inducing ability, and its lethality to guinea pigs was also significantly decreased. Inactivation of fliY, by the method used in this paper, clearly had polar effects on downstream genes. The phentotypes observed, including lower pathogenicity, could be a consequence of fliY inactivation, but also a consequence of the polar effects.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2009 · BMC Microbiology
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    • "To study the roles of the flagella and motility in the biofilm formation, we tested the L. biflexa flaB mutant (Picardeau et al., 2001), which is defective in the synthesis of the endoflagella and non-motile, in polystyrene plate assays. "
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    ABSTRACT: Leptospires exist as saprophytic organisms that are aquatic or as pathogens that are able to survive in water. Leptospirosis is transmitted to humans through environmental surface waters contaminated by the urine of mammals, usually rodents, which are chronically infected by pathogenic strains. The ecology of Leptospira spp. prompted us to evaluate if these spirochaetes were able to form biofilms. This study investigated the characteristics of biofilm development by both saprophytic and pathogenic Leptospira species using microscopic examinations and a polystyrene plate model. Biofilms were formed preferentially on glass and polystyrene surfaces. Electron microscopic images showed cells embedded in an extracellular matrix. The formation of such a biofilm is consistent with the life of saprophytic strains in water and may help pathogenic strains to survive in environmental habitats and to colonize the host.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2008 · Microbiology
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