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Journal Article

Inactivation of the Major Hemolysin Gene Influences Expression of the Nonribosomal Peptide Synthetase Gene swrA in the Insect Pathogen Serratia sp Strain SCBI

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Petersen, L. M., LaCourse, K., Schoener, T. A., Bode, H. B., & Tisa, L. S. (2017). Inactivation of the Major Hemolysin Gene Influences Expression of the Nonribosomal Peptide Synthetase Gene swrA in the Insect Pathogen Serratia sp Strain SCBI. JOURNAL OF BACTERIOLOGY, 199(21): e00333. doi:10.1128/JB.00333-17.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000A-0966-A
Hemolysins are important virulence factors for many bacterial pathogens, including Serratia marcescens. The role of the major hemolysin gene in the insect pathogen Serratia sp. strain SCBI was investigated using both forward and reverse-genetics approaches. Introduction of the major hemolysin gene into Escherichia coli resulted in a gain of both virulence and hemolytic activity. Inactivation of this hemolysin in Serratia sp. SCBI resulted in a loss of hemolysis but did not attenuate insecticidal activity. Unexpectedly, inactivation of the hemolysin gene in Serratia sp. SCBI resulted in significantly increased motility and increased antimicrobial activity. Reverse transcription-quantitative PCR (qRT-PCR) analysis of mutants with a disrupted hemolysin gene showed a dramatic increase in mRNA levels of a nonribosomal peptide synthetase gene, swrA, which produces the surfactant serrawettin W2. Mutation of the swrA gene in Serratia sp. SCBI resulted in highly varied antibiotic activity, motility, virulence, and hemolysis phenotypes that were dependent on the site of disruption within this 17.75-kb gene. When introduced into E. coli, swrA increases rates of motility and confers antimicrobial activity. While it is unclear how inactivation of the major hemolysin gene influences the expression of swrA, these results suggest that swrA plays an important role in motility and antimicrobial activity in Serratia sp. SCBI.
IMPORTANCE The opportunistic Gram-negative bacteria of the genus Serratia are widespread in the environment and can cause human illness. A comparative genomics analysis between Serratia marcescens and a new Serratia species from South Africa, termed Serratia sp. strain SCBI, shows that these two organisms are closely related but differ in pathogenesis. S. marcescens kills Caenorhabditis nematodes, while Serratia sp. SCBI is not harmful and forms a beneficial association with them. This distinction presented the opportunity to investigate potential differences in regulation of common virulence mechanisms between these two species. With the emergence of antibiotic-resistant microorganisms, there is a widespread need to understand the regulation of pathogenesis. The significance of this study is the presentation of evidence for cross-pathway regulation of virulence factors and how the elimination of one mechanism may be compensated for by the upregulation of others.