Identification and mutagenesis by allelic exchange of choE, encoding a cholesterol oxidase from the intracellular pathogen Rhodococcus equi

Jesus Navas, Bruno González Zörn, Nestor Ladron, Patricia Garrido, Jose A Vazquez-Boland

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The virulence mechanisms of the facultative intracellular parasite Rhodococcus equi remain largely unknown. Among the candidate virulence factors of this pathogenic actinomycete is a secreted cholesterol oxidase, a putative membrane-damaging toxin. We identified and characterized the gene encoding this enzyme, the choE monocistron. Its protein product, ChoE, is homologous to other secreted cholesterol oxidases identified in Brevibacterium sterolicum and Streptomyces spp. ChoE also exhibits significant similarities to putative cholesterol oxidases encoded by Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium leprae. Genetic tools for use with R. equi are poorly developed. Here we describe the first targeted mutagenesis system available for this bacterium. It is based on a suicide plasmid, a selectable marker (the aacC4 apramycin resistance gene from Salmonella), and homologous recombination. The choE allele was disrupted by insertion of the aacC4 gene, cloned in pUC19 and introduced by electroporation in R. equi. choE recombinants were isolated at frequencies between 10(-2) and 10(-3). Twelve percent of the recombinants were double-crossover choE mutants. The choE mutation was associated with loss of cooperative (CAMP-like) hemolysis with sphingomyelinase-producing bacteria (Listeria ivanovii). Functional complementation was achieved by expression of choE from pVK173-T, a pAL5000 derivative conferring hygromycin resistance. Our data demonstrate that ChoE is an important cytolytic factor for R. equi. The highly efficient targeted mutagenesis procedure that we used to generate choE isogenic mutants will be a valuable tool for the molecular analysis of R. equi virulence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4796-805
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2001


  • Alleles
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Cholesterol Oxidase/chemistry
  • Cholesterol Oxidase/genetics
  • Cholesterol Oxidase/metabolism
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Chromosomes, Bacterial/genetics
  • Crossing Over, Genetic
  • Escherichia coli/enzymology
  • Hemolysis
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis, Insertional
  • Mycobacterium leprae/enzymology
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis/enzymology
  • Plasmids
  • Recombinant Proteins/chemistry
  • Recombinant Proteins/metabolism
  • Rhodococcus equi/enzymology
  • Rhodococcus equi/genetics
  • Rhodococcus equi/pathogenicity
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Sheep
  • Streptomyces/enzymology
  • Virulence


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