Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Department of


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Wijemanne P, Xing J, Berberov EM, Marx DB, Francis DH, Moxley RA (2015) Relationship between Heat-Labile Enterotoxin Secretion Capacity and Virulence in Wild Type Porcine-Origin Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli Strains. PLoS ONE 10(3): e0117663. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0117663


© 2015 Wijemanne et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.


Heat-labile enterotoxin (LT) is an important virulence factor secreted by some strains of enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC). The prototypic human-origin strain H10407 secretes LT via a type II secretion system(T2SS). We sought to determine the relationship between the capacity to secrete LT and virulence in porcine-origin wild type (WT) ETEC strains. Sixteen WT ETEC strains isolated from cases of severe diarrheal disease were analyzed by GM1ganglioside enzyme- linked immunosorbent assay tomeasure LT concentrations in culture supernatants. All strains had detectable LT in supernatants by 2 h of culture and 1 strain, which was particularly virulent in gnotobiotic piglets (3030-2), had the highest LT secretion level all porcine-origin WT strains tested (P<0.05). The level of LT secretion (concentration in supernatants at 6-h culture) explained 92%of the variation in time-to-a-moribund-condition (R2 = 0.92, P<0.0001) in gnotobiotic piglets inoculated with either strain 3030-2, or an ETEC strain of lesser virulence (2534-86), or a non-enterotoxigenicWT strain (G58-1). All 16 porcine ETEC strains were positive by PCR analysis for the T2SS genes, gspD and gspK, and bioinformatic analysis of 4 porcine-origin strains for which complete genomic sequences were available revealed a T2SS with a high degree of homology to that of H10407.MaximumLikelihood phylogenetic trees constructed using T2SS genes gspC, gspD, gspE and homologs showed that strains 2534-86 and 3030-2 clustered together in the same clade with other porcine-origin ETEC strains in the database, UMNK88 and UMN18. Protein modeling of the ATPase gene (gspE) further revealed a direct relationship between the predicted ATP-binding capacities and LT secretion levels as follows: H10407, -8.8 kcal/mol and 199 ng/ml; 3030-2, -8.6 kcal/mol and 133 ng/ml; and 2534-86, -8.5 kcal/mol and 80 ng/ml. This study demonstrated a direct relationship between predicted ATPbinding capacity of GspE and LT secretion, and between the latter and virulence.