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Biochemical and molecular characterization of Treponema phagedenis-like spirochetes isolated from a bovine digital dermatitis lesion

Jennifer H. Wilson-Welder, Margaret K. Elliott, Richard L. Zuener, Darrell O. Bayles, David P. Alt, Thad B. Stanton
BMC Microbiology 2013 v.13 no.280 pp. 1-9
Treponema phagedenis, acetates, amino acid sequences, bacterial infections, butyrates, dairy cows, dermatitis, etiology, fermentation, flagellum, formic acid, fructose, genitalia, genome, genomics, glucose, humans, lameness, lesions (animal), maltose, mannitol, mannose, nucleic acid hybridization, nucleotide sequences, pH, pectins, ribose, sequence analysis, temperature, volatile fatty acids, Iowa
Background: Bovine papillomatous digital dermatitis (DD) is the leading cause of lameness in dairy cattle and represents a serious welfare and economic burden. Found primarily in high production dairy cattle worldwide, DD is characterized by the development of an often painful red, raw ulcerative or papillomatous lesion frequently located near the interdigital cleft and above the bulbs of the heel. While the exact etiology is unknown, several spirochete species have been isolated from lesion material. Four isolates of Treponema phagedenis-like spirochetes were isolated from dairy cows in Iowa. Given the distinct differences in host, environmental niche, and disease association, a closer analysis of phenotypic characteristics, growth characteristics, and genomic sequences of T. phagedenis, a human genitalia commensal, and the Iowa DD isolates was undertaken. Results: Phenotypically, these isolates range from 8.0 to 9.7 μm in length with 6–8 flagella on each end. These isolates, like T. phagedenis, are strictly anaerobic, require serum and volatile fatty acids for growth, and are capable of fermenting fructose, mannitol, pectin, mannose, ribose, maltose, and glucose. Major glucose fermentation products produced are formate, acetate, and butyrate. Further study was conducted with a single isolate, 4A, showing an optimal growth pH of 7.0 (range of 6–8.5) and an optimal growth temperature of 40°C (range of 29°C-43°C). Comparison of partial genomic contigs of isolate 4A and contigs of T. phagedenis F0421 revealed > 95% amino acid sequence identity with amino acid sequence of 4A. In silico DNA-DNA whole genome hybridization and BLAT analysis indicated a DDH estimate of > 80% between isolate 4A and T. phagedenis F0421, and estimates of 52.5% or less when compared to the fully sequenced genomes of other treponeme species. Conclusion: Using both physiological, biochemical and genomic analysis, there is a lack of evidence for difference between T. phagedenis and isolate 4A. The description of Treponema phagedenis should be expanded from human genital skin commensal to include being an inhabitant within DD lesions in cattle.