Deletion of toxin–antitoxin systems in the evolution of Shigella sonnei as a host-adapted pathogen

McVicker, G. ORCID: 0000-0002-6967-5968 and Tang, C.M., 2016. Deletion of toxin–antitoxin systems in the evolution of Shigella sonnei as a host-adapted pathogen. Nature Microbiology, 2, p. 16204. ISSN 2058-5276

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Pathogenic Shigella spp. are the leading cause of bacterial dysentery, with Shigella flexneri and Shigella sonnei accounting for around 90% of cases worldwide. While S. flexneri causes most disease in low-income countries (following ingestion of contaminated food and/or water), S. sonnei predominates in wealthy countries and is mainly spread from person to person. Although both species contain a large virulence plasmid, pINV, that is essential for the organism to cause disease, little is known about its maintenance. Here, using a counterselectable marker within the virulence-encoding region of pINV, we show that the S. sonnei plasmid is less stable than that of S. flexneri, especially at environmental temperatures. GmvAT, a toxin–antitoxin system, is responsible for the difference in stability and is present in pINV from S. flexneri but absent in S. sonnei pINV; GmvT is an acetyltransferase toxin that inhibits protein translation. Loss of GmvAT and a second toxin–antitoxin system, CcdAB, from pINV reduces S. sonnei plasmid stability outside the host, reflecting the host-adapted lifestyle and person-to-person transmission of this species, and hence the striking differences in its epidemiology.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Nature Microbiology
Creators: McVicker, G. and Tang, C.M.
Publisher: Macmillan Publishers Limited
Date: 7 November 2016
Volume: 2
ISSN: 2058-5276
Divisions: Schools > School of Science and Technology
Record created by: Jill Tomkinson
Date Added: 13 Jan 2017 11:16
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2017 14:10

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