Mycoplasma gallisepticum, the most pathogenic mycoplasma in poultry, is able to glide over solid surfaces. Although this gliding motility was first observed in 1968, no specific protein has yet been shown to be involved in gliding. We examined M. gallisepticum strains and clonal variants for motility and found that the cytadherence proteins GapA and CrmA were required for gliding. Loss of GapA or CrmA resulted in the loss of motility and hemadsorption and led to drastic changes in the characteristic flask-shape of the cells. To identify further genes involved in motility, a transposon mutant library of M. gallisepticum was generated and screened for motility-deficient mutants, using a screening assay based on colony morphology. Motility-deficient mutants had transposon insertions in gapA and the neighbouring downstream gene crmA. In addition, insertions were seen in gene mgc2, immediately upstream of gapA, in two motility-deficient mutants. In contrast to the GapA/CrmA mutants, the mgc2 motility mutants still possessed the ability to hemadsorb. Complementation of these mutants with a mgc2-hexahistidine fusion gene restored the motile phenotype. This is the first report assigning specific M. gallisepticum proteins to involvement in gliding motility.
Deciphering the molecular basis of the interactions between the parasite Mycoplasma gallisepticum and its avian hosts suffers from the lack of genetic tools available for the pathogen. In the absence of well established methods for targeted disruption of relevant M. gallisepticum genes, we started to develop suicide vectors and equipped them with a short fragment of M. gallisepticum origin or replication (oriC MG). We failed to create a disruption vector, although by adding a further short fragment of the M. gallisepticum tufB upstream region we created a "Trojan horse" plasmid. This is fully integrated into the genomic DNA of M. gallisepticum, always at the same site, oriC MG, and is able to carry and express any gene of interest in the genetic background of M. gallisepticum. Successful expression of a heterologous gene was shown with the lacZ gene of E. coli. When used for gene complementation or expression of hybrid genes in M. gallisepticum, a site-specific combined integration/expression vector constitutes an improvement on randomly integrating transposons, which might have unexpected effects on the expression of chromosomal genes.
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