GSBS Dissertations and Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Molecular Genetics and Microbiology


Microbiology and Physiological Systems

First Thesis Advisor

Jon D. Goguen


Yersinia pestis, Plague, Antigens, Bacterial, Pore Forming Cytotoxic Proteins, Toll-Like Receptor 2, Signal Transduction, Virulence Factors, Oxygen


Of the eleven species of bacteria that comprise the genus Yersinia of the family Enterobacteriaceae, three species are pathogenic for humans. Yersinia pseudotuberculosis and Yersinia enterocolitica usually cause a mild, self-limiting mesenteric lymphadenitis or ileitis. Yersinia pestis causes a highly invasive often fatal disease known as plague. All three elaborate a type three secretion system that is essential for virulence and encoded on closely related plasmids. In Y. pestis, all the effectors, structural components and chaperones are encoded on the 70kb plasmid, pCD1.

Of these, LcrV from Y. enterocolitica has been implicated in playing an immunosuppressive role through its interaction with host Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2) and induction of IL-10. Through expression and purification of recombinant LcrV from Escherichia coliwe show that only high molecular weight species of rLcrV are able to stimulate TLR2. In a highly sensitive subcutaneous mouse infection model we demonstrate no difference in the time to death between TLR2-sufficient or deficient mice. Analysis of cytokine levels between these two genotypes also shows no significant difference between splenic IL-10 and IL-6 or levels of bacteria. We conclusively show that this interaction, if it does occur, plays no significant role in vivo.

In a separate set of experiments, we also determined that the expression of F1, a peptide shown to be responsible for 37°C-dependent inhibition of invasion by Y. pestis in vitro, was significantly decreased under high oxygen conditions. This led us to re-examine the invasion phenotype both in vitro and in vivo. These results give new insights into virulence gene expression in Y. pestis by environmental cues other than temperature.



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