Lehmann JS, Corey VC, Ricaldi JN, Vinetz JM, Winzeler EA, Matthias MA

Whole Genome Shotgun Sequencing Shows Selection on Leptospira Regulatory Proteins During in vitro Culture Attenuation.

The American journal of tropical medicine and hygiene. 2016-02-01; 94.2: 302-13.

Leptospirosis is the most common zoonotic disease worldwide with an estimated 500,000 severe cases reported annually, and case fatality rates of 12-25%, due primarily to acute kidney and lung injuries. Despite its prevalence, the molecular mechanisms underlying leptospirosis pathogenesis remain poorly understood. To identify virulence-related genes in Leptospira interrogans, we delineated cumulative genome changes that occurred during serial in vitro passage of a highly virulent strain of L. interrogans serovar Lai into a nearly avirulent isogenic derivative. Comparison of protein coding and computationally predicted noncoding RNA (ncRNA) genes between these two polyclonal strains identified 15 nonsynonymous single nucleotide variant (nsSNV) alleles that increased in frequency and 19 that decreased, whereas no changes in allelic frequency were observed among the ncRNA genes. Some of the nsSNV alleles were in six genes shown previously to be transcriptionally upregulated during exposure to in vivo-like conditions. Five of these nsSNVs were in evolutionarily conserved positions in genes related to signal transduction and metabolism. Frequency changes of minor nsSNV alleles identified in this study likely contributed to the loss of virulence during serial in vitro culture. The identification of new virulence-associated genes should spur additional experimental inquiry into their potential role in Leptospira pathogenesis.

PMID: 26711524

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