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Open Access Research article

In vivo and in silico determination of essential genes of Campylobacter jejuni

Aline Metris*, Mark Reuter, Duncan JH Gaskin, Jozsef Baranyi and Arnoud HM van Vliet

Author Affiliations

Institute of Food Research, Norwich Research Park, Colney Lane, Norwich NR4 7UA, UK

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BMC Genomics 2011, 12:535  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-535

Published: 1 November 2011

Abstract

Background

In the United Kingdom, the thermophilic Campylobacter species C. jejuni and C. coli are the most frequent causes of food-borne gastroenteritis in humans. While campylobacteriosis is usually a relatively mild infection, it has a significant public health and economic impact, and possible complications include reactive arthritis and the autoimmune diseases Guillain-Barré syndrome. The rapid developments in "omics" technologies have resulted in the availability of diverse datasets allowing predictions of metabolism and physiology of pathogenic micro-organisms. When combined, these datasets may allow for the identification of potential weaknesses that can be used for development of new antimicrobials to reduce or eliminate C. jejuni and C. coli from the food chain.

Results

A metabolic model of C. jejuni was constructed using the annotation of the NCTC 11168 genome sequence, a published model of the related bacterium Helicobacter pylori, and extensive literature mining. Using this model, we have used in silico Flux Balance Analysis (FBA) to determine key metabolic routes that are essential for generating energy and biomass, thus creating a list of genes potentially essential for growth under laboratory conditions. To complement this in silico approach, candidate essential genes have been determined using a whole genome transposon mutagenesis method. FBA and transposon mutagenesis (both this study and a published study) predict a similar number of essential genes (around 200). The analysis of the intersection between the three approaches highlights the shikimate pathway where genes are predicted to be essential by one or more method, and tend to be network hubs, based on a previously published Campylobacter protein-protein interaction network, and could therefore be targets for novel antimicrobial therapy.

Conclusions

We have constructed the first curated metabolic model for the food-borne pathogen Campylobacter jejuni and have presented the resulting metabolic insights. We have shown that the combination of in silico and in vivo approaches could point to non-redundant, indispensable genes associated with the well characterised shikimate pathway, and also genes of unknown function specific to C. jejuni, which are all potential novel Campylobacter intervention targets.