Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Microbiology and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Inactivation of the fliY gene encoding a flagellar motor switch protein attenuates mobility and virulence of Leptospira interrogans strain Lai

Sumei Liao12, Aihua Sun3, David M Ojcius4, Senlin Wu3, Jinfang Zhao2 and Jie Yan2*

Author Affiliations

1 College of Life Sciences, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310058, PR China

2 Department of Medical Microbiology and Parasitology, College of Medicine, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310058, PR China

3 Zhejiang Medical College, Hangzhou 310053, PR China

4 Health Sciences Research Institute and School of Natural Sciences, University of California, Merced, CA 95343, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Microbiology 2009, 9:253  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-9-253

Published: 9 December 2009

Abstract

Background

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.

Results

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.

Conclusion

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.