The virulence of Campylobacter jejuni for 11-day-old chick embryos is associated with the ability to invade the chorio-allantoic membrane, to resist phagocytosis and to survive and proliferate in vivo. The pathogenicity of a well characterised avirulent C. jejuni strain was enhanced by passaging it intravenously and chorio-allantoically through chick embryos. The resulting isogenic variants had greatly increased ability to survive in vivo. In this study, the morphological and cell-surface characteristics of the avirulent parental strain were compared with those of the more virulent variants to determine whether pathogenicity was associated with one or more cell-surface constituents. Changes associated with the increased virulence of the two variants included alterations in cultural and cellular morphology, loss of flagella, expression of a new outer-membrane protein, alterations in cell-surface carbohydrates and decreases in cell-surface hydrophobicity.
Vibrio cholerae can utilize haemin or haemoglobin as its sole source of iron. Four haem utilization mutants of a classical strain of V. cholerae were isolated. These mutations were complemented with pHUT1, a cosmid clone isolated from a library of wild-type CA401 DNA. Two independent Tn5 insertions into the cloned sequence disrupted function in all of the complemented mutants. Escherichia coli 1017 transformed with pHUT1 failed to utilize haemin as an iron source; a second plasmid containing a different cloned fragment of V. cholerae DNA (pHUT3) was required in addition to pHUT1 to reconstitute the system in E. coli. Minicell analysis and SDS-PAGE of protein fractions indicate that pHUT10 (a subclone of pHUT1) encodes a 26 kDa inner membrane protein, and pHUT3 encodes a 77 kDa outer membrane protein. Loss of either protein by Tn5 mutagenesis abolishes haem utilization in E. coli. An E. coli hemA mutant that cannot synthesize porphyrins was transformed with the recombinant plasmids to determine whether the plasmids encoded the ability to transport the porphyrin as well as the iron. The transformants grew aerobically in media containing haemin, whereas the parental strain was unable to grow under these conditions. This indicates that V. cholerae haem-iron utilization genes allow transport of the entire haem moiety into the cell.
Successful competition for iron by potential pathogens is essential to establish infection. The roles of the various types of microbial iron acquisition systems in host-pathogen interactions depend on the nature of the infection and the location of the pathogen within the host. Microbes infecting the extracellular spaces of the host employ different strategies for iron acquisition than those that invade and multiply within host cells.