Jul 24, 2004

Transmission of Yersinia pestis from an infectious biofilm in the flea vector

The Journal of Infectious Diseases
Clayton O JarrettB Joseph Hinnebusch


Transmission of plague by fleas depends on infection of the proventricular valve in the insect's foregut by a dense aggregate of Yersinia pestis. Proventricular infection requires the Y. pestis hemin storage (hms) genes; here, we show that the hms genes are also required to produce an extracellular matrix and a biofilm in vitro, supporting the hypothesis that a transmissible infection in the flea depends on the development of a biofilm on the hydrophobic, acellular surface of spines that line the interior of the proventriculus. The development of biofilm and proventricular infection did not depend on the 3 Y. pestis quorum-sensing systems. The extracellular matrix enveloping the Y. pestis biofilm in the flea appeared to incorporate components from the flea's blood meal, and bacteria released from the biofilm were more resistant to human polymorphonuclear leukocytes than were in vitro-grown Y. pestis. Enabling arthropod-borne transmission represents a novel function of a bacterial biofilm.

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Mentioned in this Paper

Neutrophil Band Cells
Bacterial Proteins
Flea Infestation
Extracellular Matrix
Insect Vectors
HMST protein, Yersinia pestis
Yersinia Infections
Plague Vaccine

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