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Open Access Research article

Genome-wide screen for temperature-regulated genes of the obligate intracellular bacterium, Rickettsia typhi

Sheila M Dreher-Lesnick*, Shane M Ceraul, M Sayeedur Rahman and Abdu F Azad

Author Affiliations

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Maryland, 660 W. Redwood Street, Room HH324B, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA

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BMC Microbiology 2008, 8:61  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-8-61

Published: 15 April 2008



The ability of rickettsiae to survive in multiple eukaryotic host environments provides a good model for studying pathogen-host molecular interactions. Rickettsia typhi, the etiologic agent of murine typhus, is a strictly intracellular gram negative α-proteobacterium, which is transmitted to humans by its arthropod vector, the oriental rat flea, Xenopsylla cheopis. Thus, R. typhi must cycle between mammalian and flea hosts, two drastically different environments. We hypothesize that temperature plays a role in regulating host-specific gene expression, allowing R. typhi to survive in mammalian and arthropod hosts. In this study, we used Affymetrix microarrays to screen for temperature-induced genes upon a temperature shift from 37°C to 25°C, mimicking the two different host temperatures in vitro.


Temperature-responsive genes belonged to multiple functional categories including among others, transcription, translation, posttranslational modification/protein turnover/chaperones and intracellular trafficking and secretion. A large number of differentially expressed genes are still poorly characterized, and either have no known function or are not in the COG database. The microarray results were validated with quantitative real time RT-PCR.


This microarray screen identified various genes that were differentially expressed upon a shift in temperature from 37°C to 25°C. Further characterization of the identified genes may provide new insights into the ability of R. typhi to successfully transition between its mammalian and arthropod hosts.