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Open Access Research article

Influence of 5 major Salmonella pathogenicity islands on NK cell depletion in mice infected with Salmonella enterica serovar Enteritidis

Daniela Karasova, Alena Sebkova, Hana Havlickova, Frantisek Sisak, Jiri Volf, Martin Faldyna, Petra Ondrackova, Vladimir Kummer and Ivan Rychlik*

Author Affiliations

Veterinary Research Institute, Hudcova 70, 621 00 Brno, Czech Republic

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BMC Microbiology 2010, 10:75  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-10-75

Published: 12 March 2010



In this study we were interested in the colonisation and early immune response of Balb/C mice to infection with Salmonella Enteritidis and isogenic pathogenicity island free mutants.


The virulence of S. Enteritidis for Balb/C mice was exclusively dependent on intact SPI-2. Infections with any of the mutants harbouring SPI-2 (including the mutant in which we left only SPI-2 but removed SPI-1, SPI-3, SPI-4 and SPI-5) resulted in fatalities, liver injures and NK cell depletion from the spleen. The infection was of minimal influence on counts of splenic CD4 CD8 T lymphocytes and γδ T-lymphocytes although a reduced ability of splenic lymphocytes to respond to non-specific mitogens indicated general immunosuppression in mice infected with SPI-2 positive S. Enteritidis mutants. Further investigations showed that NK cells were depleted also in blood but not in the caecal lamina propria. However, NK cell depletion was not directly associated with the presence of SPI-2 and was rather an indicator of virulence or avirulence of a particular mutant because the depletion was not observed in mice infected with other attenuated mutants such as lon and rfaL.


The virulence of S. Enteritidis for Balb/C mice is exclusively dependent on the presence of SPI-2 in its genome, and a major hallmark of the infection in terms of early changes in lymphocyte populations is the depletion of NK cells in spleen and blood. The decrease of NK cells in circulation can be used as a marker of attenuation of S. Enteritidis mutants for Balb/C mice.