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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Characterization of Plp, a phosphatidylcholine-specific phospholipase and hemolysin of Vibrio anguillarum

Ling Li12, Xiangyu Mou13 and David R Nelson1*

  • * Corresponding author: David R Nelson

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Rhode Island, 120 Flagg Rd., Kingston, RI 02881, USA

2 College of Ocean and Earth Sciences, Xiamen University, Xiamen 361102, China

3 Present address: Massachusetts General Hospital / Harvard Medical School, 65 Landsdowne St. PRB 425, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA

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BMC Microbiology 2013, 13:271  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-13-271

Published: 27 November 2013



Vibrio anguillarum is the causative agent of vibriosis in fish. Several extracellular proteins secreted by V. anguillarum have been shown to contribute to virulence. While two hemolysin gene clusters, vah1-plp and rtxACHBDE, have been previously identified and described, the activities of the protein encoded by the plp gene were not known. Here we describe the biochemical activities of the plp-encoded protein and its role in pathogenesis.


The plp gene, one of the components in vah1 cluster, encodes a 416-amino-acid protein (Plp), which has homology to lipolytic enzymes containing the catalytic site amino acid signature SGNH. Hemolytic activity of the plp mutant increased 2-3-fold on sheep blood agar indicating that plp represses vah1; however, hemolytic activity of the plp mutant decreased by 2-3-fold on fish blood agar suggesting that Plp has different effects against erythrocytes from different species. His6-tagged recombinant Plp protein (rPlp) was over-expressed in E. coli. Purified and re-folded active rPlp exhibited phospholipase A2 activity against phosphatidylcholine and no activity against phosphatidylserine, phosphatidylethanolamine, or sphingomyelin. Characterization of rPlp revealed broad optimal activities at pH 5–9 and at temperatures of 30-64°C. Divalent cations and metal chelators did not affect activity of rPlp. We also demonstrated that Plp was secreted using thin layer chromatography and immunoblot analysis. Additionally, rPlp had strong hemolytic activity towards rainbow trout erythrocytes, but not to sheep erythrocytes suggesting that rPlp is optimized for lysis of phosphatidylcholine-rich fish erythrocytes. Further, only the loss of the plp gene had a significant effect on hemolytic activity of culture supernatant on fish erythrocytes, while the loss of rtxA and/or vah1 had little effect. However, V. anguillarum strains with mutations in plp or in plp and vah1 exhibited no significant reduction in virulence compared to the wild type strain when used to infect rainbow trout.


The plp gene of V. anguillarum encoding a phospholipase with A2 activity is specific for phosphatidylcholine and, therefore, able to lyse fish erythrocytes, but not sheep erythrocytes. Mutation of plp does not affect the virulence of V. anguillarum in rainbow trout.

Vibrio anguillarum; Vbriosis; Phospholipase; Hemolysis; Virulence