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Systematic mutagenesis of genes encoding predicted autotransported proteins of burkholderia pseudomallei identifies factors mediating virulence in mice, net intracellular replication and a novel protein conferring serum resistance

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  • Natalie R Lazar Adler
  • Mark P. Stevens
  • Rachel E. Dean
  • Richard J. Saint
  • Depesh Pankhania
  • Joann L. Prior
  • Timothy P. Atkins
  • Bianca Kessler
  • Arnone Nithichanon
  • Ganjana Lertmemongkolchai
  • Edouard E. Galyov

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    Rights statement: Copyright: © 2015 Adler et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited

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Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0121271
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015


Burkholderia pseudomallei is the causative agent of the severe tropical disease melioidosis, which commonly presents as sepsis. The B. pseudomallei K96243 genome encodes eleven predicted autotransporters, a diverse family of secreted and outer membrane proteins often associated with virulence. In a systematic study of these autotransporters, we constructed insertion mutants in each gene predicted to encode an autotransporter and assessed them for three pathogenesis-associated phenotypes: virulence in the BALB/c intra-peritoneal mouse melioidosis model, net intracellular replication in J774.2 murine macrophage-like cells and survival in 45% (v/v) normal human serum. From the complete repertoire of eleven autotransporter mutants, we identified eight mutants which exhibited an increase in median lethal dose of 1 to 2-log10 compared to the isogenic parent strain (bcaA, boaA, boaB, bpaA, bpaC, bpaE, bpaF and bimA ). Four mutants, all demonstrating attenuation for virulence, exhibited reduced net intracellular replication in J774.2 macrophage-like cells (bimA, boaB, bpaC and bpaE). A single mutant (bpaC) was identified that exhibited significantly reduced serum survival compared to wild-type. The bpaC mutant, which demonstrated attenuation for virulence and net intracellular replication, was sensitive to complement-mediated killing via the classical and/or lectin pathway. Serum resistance was rescued by in trans complementation. Subsequently, we expressed recombinant proteins of the passenger domain of four predicted autotransporters representing each of the phenotypic groups identified: those attenuated for virulence (BcaA), those attenuated for virulence and net intracellular replication (BpaE), the BpaC mutant with defects in virulence, net intracellular replication and serum resistance and those displaying wild-type phenotypes (BatA). Only BcaA and BpaE elicited a strong IFN- γresponse in a restimulation assay using whole blood from seropositive donors and were recognised by seropositive human sera from the endemic area. To conclude, several predicted autotransporters contribute to B. pseudomallei virulence and BpaC may do so by conferring resistance against complement-mediated killing.

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