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Phage-mediated Shiga toxin (Stx) horizontal gene transfer and expression in non-Shiga toxigenic and strains

Rowaida K.S. Khalil, Craig Skinner, Stephanie Patfield, Xiaohua He
Pathogens and Disease 2016 v.74 no.5 pp. 1-11
Enterobacter cloacae, Escherichia coli O157, Shiga toxin, Western blotting, bacteriophages, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, gene expression, genes, horizontal gene transfer, monoclonal antibodies, mutation
Enterobacter cloacae M12X01451 strain recently identified from a clinical specimen produces a new Stx1 subtype (Stx1e) that was not neutralized by existing anti-Stx1 monoclonal antibodies. Acquisition of stx by Ent. cloacae is rare and origin/stability of stx1e in M12X01451 is not known. In this study, we confirmed the ability of Stx1a- and Stx1e-converting phages from an Escherichia coli O157:H7 strain RM8530 and M12X01451 respectively to infect several E. coli and Ent. cloacae strains. stx1e was detected in 97.5% and 72.5% of progenies of strains lysogenized by stx1e phage after 10 (T10) and 20 (T20) subcultures, versus 65% and 17.5% for stx1a gene. Infection of M12X01451 and RM8530 with each other’s phages generated double lysogens containing both phages. stx1a was lost after T10, whereas the stx1e was maintained even after T20 in M12X01451 lysogens. In RM8530 lysogens, the acquired stx1e was retained with no mutations, but 20% of stx1a was lost after T20. ELISA and western blot analyses demonstrated that Stx1e was produced in all strains lysogenized by stx1e phage; however, Stx1a was not detected in any lysogenized strain. The study results highlight the potential risks of emerging Stx-producing strains via bacteriophages either in the human gastrointestinal tract or in food production environments, which are matters of great concern and may have serious impacts on human health.