A group of Leptospira strains which were isolated from patients with leptospirosis in Mayotte (Indian Ocean) were previously found considerably divergent from other known Leptospira species by sequence analysis of rrs (16S rRNA) and other genetic loci, suggesting they belong to a new species. Two strains from each of the currently identified serogroup within this new species were studied. Spirochete, aerobic, motile, helix-shaped strains grew well at 30-37°C, but not at 13°C or in the presence of 8-azaguanine. Draft genomes of the strains were also analyzed to study the DNA relatedness with other Leptospira species. The new isolates formed a distinct clade, which was most closely related to L. borgpetersenii, in multilocus sequence analysis using concatenated sequences of the genes rpoB, recA, fusA, gyrB, leuS and sucA. The analysis of average nucleotide identity (ANI) and genome-to-genome distances (GGD), which have recently been proposed as reliable substitutes for classical DNA-DNA hybridization, further confirmed that these isolates should be classified as a new species. The G+C content of the genomic DNA was 39.5 mol%. These isolates represent a novel species, for which the name Leptospira mayottensis sp. nov. is proposed, with 200901116T (=CIP110703 T = DSM28999 T) as the type strain.
Several Leptospira species cause leptospirosis, the most extended zoonosis worldwide. In bacteria, two-component systems constitute key signalling pathways, some of which are involved in pathogenesis. The physiological roles of two-component systems in Leptospira are largely unknown, despite identifying several dozens within their genomes. Biochemical confirmation of an operative phosphorelaying two-component system has been obtained so far only for the Hklep/Rrlep pair. It is known that hklep/rrlep knockout strains of Leptospira biflexa result in haem auxotrophy, although their de novo biosynthesis machinery remains fully functional. Haem is essential for Leptospira, but information about Hklep/Rrlep effector function(s) and target(s) is still lacking. We are now reporting a thorough molecular characterization of this system, which we rename HemK/HemR. The DNA HemR-binding motif was determined, and found within the genomes of saprophyte and pathogenic Leptospira. In this way, putative HemR-regulated genes were pinpointed, including haem catabolism-related (hmuO - haem oxygenase) and biosynthesis-related (the hemA/C/D/B/L/E/N/G operon). Specific HemR binding to these two promoters was quantified, and a dual function was observed in vivo, inversely repressing the hmuO, while activating the hemA operon transcription. The crystal structure of HemR receiver domain was determined, leading to a mechanistic model for its dual regulatory role.
Leptospira spp. are spirochete bacteria comprising both pathogenic and free-living species. The saprophyte L. biflexa is a model bacterium for studying leptospiral biology due to relative ease of culturing and genetic manipulation. In this study, we constructed a library of 4,996 random transposon mutants in L. biflexa. We screened the library for increased susceptibility to the DNA intercalating agent, ethidium bromide (EtBr), in order to identify genetic determinants that reduce L. biflexa susceptibility to antimicrobial agents. By phenotypic screening, using subinhibitory EtBr concentrations, we identified 29 genes that, when disrupted via transposon insertion, led to increased sensitivity of the bacteria to EtBr. At the functional level, these genes could be categorized by function as follows: regulation and signaling (n=11), transport (n=6), membrane structure (n=5), stress response (n=2), DNA damage repair (n=1), and other processes (n=3), while 1 gene had no predicted function. Genes involved in transport (including efflux pumps) and regulation (two-component systems, anti-sigma factor antagonists, etc.) were overrepresented, demonstrating that these genes are major contributors to EtBr tolerance. This finding suggests that transport genes which would prevent EtBr to enter the cell cytoplasm are critical for EtBr resistance. We identified genes required for the growth of L. biflexa in the presence of sublethal EtBr concentration and characterized their potential as antibiotic resistance determinants. This study will help to delineate mechanisms of adaptation to toxic compounds, as well as potential mechanisms of antibiotic resistance development in pathogenic L. interrogans.
Leptospirosis is the most common bacterial zoonoses and has been identified as an important emerging global public health problem in Southeast Asia. Rodents are important reservoirs for human leptospirosis, but epidemiological data is lacking.
Limited research has been conducted on the role of transcriptional regulators in relation to virulence in Leptospira interrogans, the etiological agent of leptospirosis. Here, we identify an L. interrogans locus that encodes a sensor protein, an anti-sigma factor antagonist, and two genes encoding proteins of unknown function. Transposon insertion into the gene encoding the sensor protein led to dampened transcription of the other 3 genes in this locus. This lb139 insertion mutant (the lb139(-) mutant) displayed attenuated virulence in the hamster model of infection and reduced motility in vitro. Whole-transcriptome analyses using RNA sequencing revealed the downregulation of 115 genes and the upregulation of 28 genes, with an overrepresentation of gene products functioning in motility and signal transduction and numerous gene products with unknown functions, predicted to be localized to the extracellular space. Another significant finding encompassed suppressed expression of the majority of the genes previously demonstrated to be upregulated at physiological osmolarity, including the sphingomyelinase C precursor Sph2 and LigB. We provide insight into a possible requirement for transcriptional regulation as it relates to leptospiral virulence and suggest various biological processes that are affected due to the loss of native expression of this genetic locus.
Leptospirosis is a worldwide zoonosis which is responsible for the typical form of Weil's disease. The epidemiological surveillance of the Leptospira species agent is important for host prevalence control. Although the genotyping methods have progressed, the identification of some serovars remains ambiguous. We investigated the multispacer sequence typing (MST) method for genotyping strains belonging to the species Leptospira interrogans, which is the main agent of leptospirosis worldwide. A total of 33 DNA samples isolated from the reference strains of L. interrogans serogroups Icterohaemorrhagiae, Australis, Canicola, and Grippotyphosa, which are the most prevalent serogroups in France, were analyzed by both the variable-number tandem-repeat (VNTR) and MST methods. An MST database has been constructed from the DNA of these reference strains to define the MST profiles. The MST profiles corroborated with the VNTR results. Moreover, the MST analysis allowed the identification at the serovar level or potentially to the isolate level for strains belonging to L. interrogans serovar Icterohaemorrhagiae, which then results in a higher resolution than VNTR (Hunter-Gaston index of 0.94 versus 0.68). Regarding L. interrogans serogroups Australis, Canicola, and Grippotyphosa, the MST and VNTR methods similarly identified the genotype. The MST method enabled the acquisition of simple and robust results that were based on the nucleotide sequences. The MST identified clinical isolates in correlation with the reference serovar profiles, thus permitting an epidemiological surveillance of circulating L. interrogans strains, especially for the Icterohaemorrhagiae serogroup, which includes the most prevalent strains of public health interest.
Conditions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo provide an ideal environment for leptospirosis and plague, both of which can cause severe pulmonary manifestations. In December 2004, an outbreak of lethal pneumonia occurred in a local mining camp, affecting 130 persons and killing 57 of them. Clinical signs, fast disease spread, and initial laboratory investigations suggested pneumonic plague. While leptospirosis had not recently been described in the region, it was considered as a differential diagnosis. Anti-Leptospira antibodies were detected by microscopic agglutination test (MAT). A confirmed case of leptospirosis was defined as having consistent clinical signs and any one of the following: seroconversion or four-fold increase in MAT titre for paired serum samples, or a MAT titre ? 1:400 for acute-phase serum samples. Twenty-nine of the 54 patients or convalescents tested for leptospirosis were seropositive. Two cases showed a confirmed infection for both plague and leptospirosis. While evidence supports the plague nature of this outbreak, the results suggest that some of the suspected plague cases might be due to leptospirosis. In any case, this diagnosis will have to be evoked in the future if a similar outbreak occurs in this region of Africa.
Since 1953, leptospirosis has been recognized as a public health problem on Reunion Island. In 2004, was implemented a specific surveillance system that included systematic reporting and the realization of environmental investigations around hospitalized cases. Here, we present the synthesis of historical data and the assessment of 9 years of leptospirosis surveillance. From 2004 to 2012, 414 hospitalized cases were reported. Cases of leptospirosis occurred mostly during the rainy season from December to May. Approximately 41% of infections occurred at home, 12% of infections occurred during aquatic leisure and 5% of cases were linked to professional activities. Furthermore, for 41% of cases, the place of infection could not be determined due to the accumulation of residential and non-residential exposure. Most of the cases of leptospirosis were linked to rural areas or traditional, rural occupations. We did not observe a shift to recreational leptospirosis as described in some developed countries. According to the new surveillance system, the number of reported cases has regularly increased since 2004. This situation is in part due to the improvement of the system in the first years but also to a real increase in the number of detected cases due to the introduction of molecular methods and to increased biological investigation into the Dengue-like syndrome by medical practitioners on the island since the Chikungunya crisis in 2006. This increase is probably due to surveillance and diagnosis biases but need to be carefully monitored. Nevertheless, the possibility of an outbreak is always present due to climatic events, such as after the "hyacinth" hurricane in 1980.
Leptospira interrogans is a global zoonotic pathogen and is the causative agent of leptospirosis, an endemic disease of humans and animals worldwide. There is limited understanding of leptospiral pathogenesis and further elucidation of the mechanisms involved would therefore aid in vaccine development and prevention of infection. HtpG (High temperature protein G) is the bacterial homolog to the highly conserved molecular chaperone Hsp90, and is important in the stress response of many bacteria. The specific role of HtpG, especially in bacterial pathogenesis, remains largely unknown. Through the use of an L. interrogans htpG transposon insertion mutant, this study demonstrates that HtpG of L. interrogans is essential for virulence in the hamster model of acute leptospirosis. Complementation of the htpG mutant completely restored virulence. Surprisingly, the htpG mutant did not appear to show sensitivity to heat or oxidative stress, phenotypes common in htpG mutants in other bacterial species. Furthermore, the mutant did not show increased sensitivity to serum complement, reduced survival within macrophages, nor altered protein or lipopolysaccharide expression. The underlying cause for attenuation thus remains unknown, but HtpG is a novel leptospiral virulence factor, and one of only a very small number identified to date.
Pathogenic Leptospira species are the etiological agents of the widespread zoonotic disease leptospirosis. Most organisms, including Leptospira, require divalent cations for proper growth, but because of their high reactivity, these metals are toxic at high concentrations. Therefore, bacteria have acquired strategies to maintain metal homeostasis, such as metal import and efflux. By screening Leptospira biflexa transposon mutants for their ability to use Mn(2+), we have identified a gene encoding a putative orphan ATP-binding cassette (ABC) ATPase of unknown function. Inactivation of this gene in both L. biflexa and L. interrogans strains led to mutants unable to grow in medium in which iron was replaced by Mn(2+), suggesting an involvement of this ABC ATPase in divalent cation uptake. A mutation in this ATPase-coding gene increased susceptibility to Mn(2+) toxicity. Recombinant ABC ATPase of the pathogen L. interrogans exhibited Mg(2+)-dependent ATPase activity involving a P-loop motif. The structure of this ATPase was solved from a crystal containing two monomers in the asymmetric unit. Each monomer adopted a canonical two-subdomain organization of the ABC ATPase fold with an ?/? subdomain containing the Walker motifs and an ? subdomain containing the ABC signature motif (LSSGE). The two monomers were arranged in a head-to-tail orientation, forming a V-shaped particle with all the conserved ABC motifs at the dimer interface, similar to functional ABC ATPases. These results provide the first structural and functional characterization of a leptospiral ABC ATPase.
Leptospirosis is an emerging zoonosis with a worldwide distribution but is more commonly found in impoverished populations in developing countries and tropical regions with frequent flooding. The rapid detection of leptospirosis is a critical step to effectively manage the disease and to control outbreaks in both human and animal populations. Therefore, there is a need for accurate and rapid diagnostic tests and appropriate surveillance and alert systems to identify outbreaks. This review describes current in-house methods and commercialized tests for the rapid diagnosis of acute leptospirosis. It focuses on diagnostic tests that can be performed with minimal training and limited equipment in less-developed and newly industrialized countries, particularly in resource-limited settings and with results in minutes to less than 4 hours. We also describe recent technological advances in the field of diagnostic tests that could allow for the development of innovative rapid tests in the near future.
Background : Leptospirosis is a growing public health concern in many tropical and subtropical countries. However, its diagnosis is difficult because of non-specific symptoms and concurrent other endemic febrile diseases. In many regions, the laboratory diagnosis is not available due to a lack of preparedness and simple diagnostic assay or difficult access to reference laboratories. Yet, an early antibiotic treatment is decisive to the outcome. The need for Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs) for bedside diagnosis of leptospirosis has been recognized. We developed a vertical flow immunochromatography strip RDT detecting anti-Leptospira human IgM and evaluated it in patients from New Caledonia, France, and French West Indies. Methodology/Principal Findings : Whole killed Leptospira fainei cells were used as antigen for the test line and purified human IgM as the control line. The mobile phase was made of gold particles conjugated with goat anti-human IgM. Standards for Reporting of Diagnostic Accuracy criteria were used to assess the performance of this RDT. The Microscopic Agglutination Test (MAT) was used as the gold standard with a cut-off titer of ?400. The sensitivity was 89.8% and the specificity 93.7%. Positive and negative Likelihood Ratios of 14.18 and 0.108 respectively, and a Diagnostic Odds Ratio of 130.737 confirmed its usefulness. This RDT had satisfactory reproducibility, repeatability, thermal tolerance and shelf-life. The comparison with MAT evidenced the earliness of the RDT to detect seroconversion. When compared with other RDT, the Vertical Flow RDT developed displayed good diagnostic performances.
High concentrations of free metal ions in the environment can be detrimental to bacterial survival. However, bacteria utilize strategies, including the activation of stress response pathways and immobilizing chemical elements on their surface, to limit this toxicity. In this study, we characterized LA4131, the HtpX-like M48 metalloprotease from Leptospira interrogans, with a putative role in bacterial stress response and membrane homeostasis. Growth of the la4131 transposon mutant strain (L522) in 360 ?M FeSO4 (10-fold the normal in vitro concentration) resulted in the production of an amorphous iron precipitate. Atomic force microscopy and transmission electron microscopy analysis of the strain demonstrated that precipitate production was associated with the generation and release of outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) from the leptospiral surface. Transcriptional studies indicated that inactivation of la4131 resulted in altered expression of a subset of metal toxicity and stress response genes. Combining these findings, this report describes OMV production in response to environmental stressors and associates OMV production with the in vitro activity of an HtpX-like metalloprotease.
Leptospirosis is a worldwide zoonosis caused by pathogenic Leptospira spp., but knowledge of leptospiral pathogenesis remains limited. However, the development of mutagenesis systems has allowed the investigation of putative virulence factors and their involvement in leptospirosis. LipL41 is the third most abundant lipoprotein found in the outer membranes of pathogenic leptospires and has been considered a putative virulence factor. LipL41 is encoded on the large chromosome 28 bp upstream of a small open reading frame encoding a hypothetical protein of unknown function. This gene was named lep, for LipL41 expression partner. In this study, lipL41 was found to be cotranscribed with lep. Two transposon mutants were characterized: a lipL41 mutant and a lep mutant. In the lep mutant, LipL41 protein levels were reduced by approximately 90%. Lep was shown through cross-linking and coexpression experiments to bind to LipL41. Lep is proposed to be a molecular chaperone essential for the stable expression of LipL41. The roles of LipL41 and Lep in the pathogenesis of Leptospira interrogans were investigated; surprisingly, neither of these two unique proteins was essential for acute leptospirosis.
Leptospirosis is recognized as an emerging zoonotic disease generally affecting urban slums in developing countries and tropical regions. A combination of non-specific symptoms, low awareness among the medical community and a lack of readily available diagnostic tests have made leptospirosis an underdiagnosed disease. In this study, we tested an in-house ELISA with formalin-treated and boiled bacteria from the intermediate species Leptospira fainei as an antigen to detect Leptospira-specific IgM antibodies. A total of 819 serum samples, tested by a microscopic agglutination test (MAT) as a reference test, were used to evaluate the ELISA. Compared with positive and negative sera, the ELISA showed 94?% sensitivity and 99?% specificity. Positive and negative likelihood ratios were 94 and 0.06, respectively. No cross-reactivity was observed in sera from subjects with dengue and syphilis infections. The kappa value was 0.92 (95?% confidence interval 0.88-0.96), which indicated excellent agreement between the MAT and ELISA. The overall performance of this in-house ELISA suggests applicability as a rapid screening test for the diagnosis of leptospirosis in resource-limited settings and in hospitals and laboratories where a MAT is not available.
Leptospirosis is one of the most important neglected tropical bacterial diseases in Latin America and the Caribbean. However, very little is known about the circulating etiological agents of leptospirosis in this region. In this study, we describe the serological and molecular features of leptospires isolated from 104 leptospirosis patients in Guadeloupe (n?=?85) and Martinique (n?=?19) and six rats captured in Guadeloupe, between 2004 and 2012.
Leptospira spp. are thin, highly motile, slow-growing spirochetes that can be distinguished from other bacteria on the basis of their unique helical shape. Defining the mechanisms by which these bacteria generate and maintain this atypical morphology should greatly enhance our understanding of the fundamental physiology of these pathogens. In this study, we showed that peptidoglycan sacculi from Leptospira spp. retain the helical shape of intact cells. Interestingly, the distribution of muropeptides was different from that in the Escherichia coli model, indicating that specific enzymes might be active on the peptidoglycan macromolecule. We could alter the shape of Leptospira biflexa with the broad-spectrum ?-lactam antibiotic penicillin G and with amdinocillin and aztreonam, which are ?-lactams that preferentially target penicillin-binding protein 2 (PBP2) and PBP3, respectively, in some species. Although genetic manipulations of Leptospira spp. are scarce, we were able to obtain mutants with alterations in genes encoding PBPs, including PBP3. Loss of this protein resulted in cell elongation. We also generated an L. biflexa strain that conditionally expresses MreB. Loss of the MreB function was correlated with morphological abnormalities such as a localized increased diameter and heterogeneous length. A prolonged depletion of MreB resulted in cell lysis, suggesting that this protein is essential. These findings indicate that important aspects of leptospiral cell morphology are determined by the cytoskeleton and the murein layer, thus providing a starting point for a better understanding of the morphogenesis in these atypical bacteria.
Leptospira interrogans is the causative agent of leptospirosis, which is an emerging zoonotic disease. Resistance to stress conditions is largely uncharacterized for this bacterium. We therefore decided to analyze a clpB mutant that we obtained by random transposon mutagenesis. The mutant did not produce any of the two isoforms of ClpB. The clpB mutant exhibited growth defects at 30° and 37°C and in poor nutrient medium and showed increased susceptibility to oxidative stress, whereas the genetically complemented strain was restored in ClpB expression and in vitro wild-type growth. We also showed that the clpB mutant was attenuated in virulence in an animal model of acute leptospirosis. Our findings demonstrate that ClpB is involved in the general stress response. The chaperone is also necessary, either directly or indirectly, for the virulence of the pathogen L. interrogans.
Leptospirosis is considered an underdiagnosed disease. Although several PCR-based methods are currently in use, there is little information on their comparability. In this study, four quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) assays (SYBR green and TaqMan chemistries) targeting the secY, lfb1, and lipL32 genes were evaluated as diagnostic assays. In our hands, these assays can detect between 10(2) and 10(3) bacteria/ml of pure culture, whole-blood, plasma, and serum samples. In three independent experiments, we found a slightly higher sensitivity of the PCR assays in plasma than in whole blood and serum. We also evaluated the specificity of the PCR assays on reference Leptospira strains, including newly described Leptospira species, and clinical isolates. No amplification was detected for DNA obtained from saprophytic or intermediate Leptospira species. However, among the pathogens, we identified sequence polymorphisms in target genes that result in primer and probe mismatches and affect qPCR assay performance. In conclusion, most of these assays are sensitive and specific tools for routine diagnosis of leptospirosis. However, it is important to continually evaluate and, if necessary, modify the primers and/or probes used to ensure effective detection of the circulating Leptospira isolates.
Three athletes who participated in a race in the tropical forest of the Caribbean island of Martinique were subsequently diagnosed with leptospirosis using polymerase chain reaction (PCR). We investigated an outbreak to evaluate possible risk factors, and to determine the appropriate public health recommendations. Of 230 athletes, we contacted 148 (64%) and 20 (13.5%) met our case definition. Five were hospitalized and none were fatal. Ten (91%) of the 11 ill athletes who were tested were confirmed by PCR or serology. Serogroup Pyrogenes was commonly found. Cutaneous cuts, reported by 14 (73.7%), was the only potential risk factor using univariate analysis. Sporting event participants in tropical areas should be made aware of specific warnings and recommendations concerning the risk of leptospirosis, especially after periods of heavy rainfall or flooding. Rapid diagnostic assays such as PCR are particularly appropriate in this setting for early diagnosis and for formulating public health recommendations.
In comparison to other bacterial pathogens, our knowledge of the molecular basis of the pathogenesis of leptospirosis is extremely limited. An improved understanding of leptospiral pathogenetic mechanisms requires reliable tools for functional genetic analysis. Leptospiral immunoglobulin-like (Lig) proteins are surface proteins found in pathogenic Leptospira, but not in saprophytes. Here, we describe a system for heterologous expression of the Leptospira interrogans genes ligA and ligB in the saprophyte Leptospira biflexa serovar Patoc.
Leptospirosis is a potentially fatal zoonotic disease in humans and animals caused by pathogenic spirochetes, such as Leptospira interrogans. The mode of transmission is commonly limited to the exposure of mucous membrane or damaged skin to water contaminated by leptospires shed in the urine of carriers, such as rats. Infection occurs during seasonal flooding of impoverished tropical urban habitats with large rat populations, but also during recreational activity in open water, suggesting it is very efficient. LigA and LigB are surface localized proteins in pathogenic Leptospira strains with properties that could facilitate the infection of damaged skin. Their expression is rapidly induced by the increase in osmolarity encountered by leptospires upon transition from water to host. In addition, the immunoglobulin-like repeats of the Lig proteins bind proteins that mediate attachment to host tissue, such as fibronectin, fibrinogen, collagens, laminin, and elastin, some of which are important in cutaneous wound healing and repair. Hemostasis is critical in a fresh injury, where fibrinogen from damaged vasculature mediates coagulation. We show that fibrinogen binding by recombinant LigB inhibits fibrin formation, which could aid leptospiral entry into the circulation, dissemination, and further infection by impairing healing. LigB also binds fibroblast fibronectin and type III collagen, two proteins prevalent in wound repair, thus potentially enhancing leptospiral adhesion to skin openings. LigA or LigB expression by transformation of a nonpathogenic saprophyte, L. biflexa, enhances bacterial adhesion to fibrinogen. Our results suggest that by binding homeostatic proteins found in cutaneous wounds, LigB could facilitate leptospirosis transmission. Both fibronectin and fibrinogen binding have been mapped to an overlapping domain in LigB comprising repeats 9-11, with repeat 11 possibly enhancing binding by a conformational effect. Leptospirosis patient antibodies react with the LigB domain, suggesting applications in diagnosis and vaccines that are currently limited by the strain-specific leptospiral lipopolysaccharide coats.
Our knowledge of the genetics and molecular basis of the pathogenesis associated with Leptospira, in comparison to those of other bacterial species, is very limited. An improved understanding of pathogenic mechanisms requires reliable genetic tools for functional genetic analysis. Here, we report the expression of gfp and mRFP1 genes under the control of constitutive spirochetal promoters in both saprophytic and pathogenic Leptospira strains. We were able to reliably measure the fluorescence of Leptospira by fluorescence microscopy and a fluorometric microplate reader-based assay. We showed that the expression of the gfp gene had no significant effects on growth in vivo and pathogenicity in L. interrogans. We constructed an expression vector for L. biflexa that contains the lacI repressor, an inducible lac promoter, and gfp as the reporter, demonstrating that the lac system is functional in Leptospira. Green fluorescent protein (GFP) expression was induced by the addition of isopropyl-?-d-thiogalactopyranoside (IPTG) in L. biflexa transformants harboring the expression vector. Finally, we showed that GFP can be used as a reporter to assess promoter activity in different environmental conditions. These results may facilitate further advances for studying the genetics of Leptospira spp.
We measured the frequency of appearance of spontaneous mutants resistant to gentamicin, kanamycin, streptomycin, and spectinomycin in saprophytic and pathogenic Leptospira strains. The mutations responsible for the spontaneous resistance to streptomycin and spectinomycin were identified in the rpsL and rrs genes, respectively. We also generated a gentamicin resistance cassette that allows the use of a third selectable marker in leptospires. These results may facilitate further advances in gene transfer systems in Leptospira spp.
Leptospirosis has been implicated as a severe and fatal form of disease in Mayotte, a French-administrated territory located in the Comoros archipelago (southwestern Indian Ocean). To date, Leptospira isolates have never been isolated in this endemic region.
Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease that has emerged as an important cause of morbidity and mortality among impoverished populations. One hundred years after the discovery of the causative spirochaetal agent, little is understood about Leptospira spp. pathogenesis, which in turn has hampered the development of new intervention strategies to address this neglected disease. However, the recent availability of complete genome sequences for Leptospira spp. and the discovery of genetic tools for their transformation have led to important insights into the biology of these pathogens and their pathogenesis. We discuss the life cycle of the bacterium, the recent advances in our understanding and the implications for the future prevention of leptospirosis.
Leptospirosis is a widespread zoonosis caused by pathogenic Leptospira interrogans that are transmitted by asymptomatic infected rodents. Leptospiral lipoproteins and LPS have been shown to stimulate murine cells via TLRs 2 and 4. Host defense mechanisms remain obscure, although TLR4 has been shown to be involved in clearing Leptospira. In this study, we show that double (TLR2 and TLR4) knockout (DKO) mice rapidly died from severe hepatic and renal failure following Leptospira inoculation. Strikingly, the severe proinflammatory response detected in the liver and kidney from Leptospira-infected DKO mice appears to be independent of MyD88, the main adaptor of TLRs. Infection of chimeric mice constructed with wild-type and DKO mice, and infection of several lines of transgenic mice devoid of T and/or B lymphocytes, identified B cells as the crucial lymphocyte subset responsible for the clearance of Leptospira, through the early production of specific TLR4-dependent anti-Leptospira IgMs elicited against the leptospiral LPS. We also found a protective tissue compartmentalized TLR2/TLR4-mediated production of IFN-gamma by B and T lymphocytes, in the liver and kidney, respectively. In contrast, the tissue inflammation observed in Leptospira-infected DKO mice was further characterized to be mostly due to B lymphocytes in the liver and T cells in the kidney. Altogether these findings demonstrate that TLR2 and TLR4 play a key role in the early control of leptospirosis, but do not directly trigger the inflammation induced by pathogenic Leptospira.
Mariner eukaryotic elements transpose randomly and independently of any host factors, making them ideal tools for random mutagenesis in bacteria, including genetically intractable microorganisms. The transposable element Himar1, a member of the mariner family of transposons, originally isolated from the horn fly (Haematobia irritans), has thus been extensively used to generate large numbers of insertion mutants. Transposon-based approaches greatly facilitate studies of bacterial biology. We summarize the current mariner-based transposon tools and techniques for conducting genetic studies in bacteria.
The family of leptospiral immunoglobulin-like (lig) genes comprises ligA, ligB and ligC. This study used PCR to demonstrate the presence of lig genes among serovars from a collection of leptospiral strains and clinical isolates. Whilst ligA and ligC appeared to be present in a limited number of pathogenic serovars, the ligB gene was distributed ubiquitously among all pathogenic strains. None of the lig genes were detected among intermediate or saprophytic Leptospira species. It was also shown that, similar to the previously characterized secY gene, a short specific PCR fragment of ligB could be used to correctly identify pathogenic Leptospira species. These findings demonstrate that ligB is widely present among pathogenic strains and may be useful for their reliable identification and classification.
Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease with high mortality and morbidity rates in humans and animals throughout the world. Since the discovery of Leptospira, the causal agent of leptospirosis, a century ago, this spirochete has been isolated from the environment and a wide spectrum of animals and classified into serogroups and serovars as a function of antigenic determinants. Modern technology has greatly improved laboratory procedures, particularly those for the detection, identification and typing of epidemiologic strains. In this review, we describe "classical" serotyping methods, followed by a description of genotyping and post-genomic typing methods.
The dynamics of leptospirosis infection have been poorly studied. The purpose of this study was to determine the LD(50), rate of bacterial dissemination, histopathology and antibody responses against leptospira following inoculation with the highly virulent Leptospira interrogans Fiocruz L1-130 strain in a guinea pig model of leptospirosis. Three routes of infection (intraperitoneal, conjunctival and subcutaneous inoculation) were used to establish disease in guinea pigs. The size and kinetics of leptospiral burdens in the blood and tissues of infected animals were determined over a 1 week course of infection using quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR). Bacteraemia peaked at day 5 post-infection reaching more than 5x10(4) leptospires ml(-1). The highest spirochaetal load was found in the liver and kidneys, and was associated with alterations in organ tissues and a decline in liver and kidney functions. In contrast, lesions and bacteria were not detected in guinea pigs infected with an avirulent strain derived from a high-passage-number in vitro-passaged variant of the Fiocruz L1-130 strain. The use of qPCR supports the findings of earlier studies and provides an easy and reliable method for the quantification of L. interrogans in the tissues of infected animals. qPCR will be used in future studies to evaluate the efficacy of vaccine candidates against leptospirosis and the virulence of selected L. interrogans mutants relative to the parental strain.
Leptospira interrogans is the most common cause of leptospirosis in humans and animals. Genetic analysis of L. interrogans has been severely hindered by a lack of tools for genetic manipulation. Recently we developed the mariner-based transposon Himar1 to generate the first defined mutants in L. interrogans. In this study, a total of 929 independent transposon mutants were obtained and the location of insertion determined. Of these mutants, 721 were located in the protein coding regions of 551 different genes. While sequence analysis of transposon insertion sites indicated that transposition occurred in an essentially random fashion in the genome, 25 unique transposon mutants were found to exhibit insertions into genes encoding 16S or 23S rRNAs, suggesting these genes are insertional hot spots in the L. interrogans genome. In contrast, loci containing notionally essential genes involved in lipopolysaccharide and heme biosynthesis showed few transposon insertions. The effect of gene disruption on the virulence of a selected set of defined mutants was investigated using the hamster model of leptospirosis. Two attenuated mutants with disruptions in hypothetical genes were identified, thus validating the use of transposon mutagenesis for the identification of novel virulence factors in L. interrogans. This library provides a valuable resource for the study of gene function in L. interrogans. Combined with the genome sequences of L. interrogans, this provides an opportunity to investigate genes that contribute to pathogenesis and will provide a better understanding of the biology of L. interrogans.
Leptospirosis has emerged to become a major public health problem in developing countries. The availability of complete sequences of strains representing saprophytic and pathogenic species of the genus Leptospira is providing insights into the evolution of virulence and survival mechanisms used by these bacteria to persist in different ecological niches.
Leptospires lack many of the homologs for oxidative defense present in other bacteria, but do encode homologs of the Bacteriodes aerotolerance (Bat) proteins, which have been proposed to fulfill this function. Bat homologs have been identified in all families of the phylum Spirochaetes, yet a specific function for these proteins has not been experimentally demonstrated.
We have developed a capillary tube assay in combination with real-time PCR to quantitate the number of chemoattracted Leptospira cells. We identified Tween 80, glucose, sucrose, and pyruvate as attractants for Leptospira cells; amino acids and vitamin B(12) were found to be nonchemotactic or weakly chemotactic. This assay has the general applicability to further our understanding of leptospiral chemotaxis.
Pathogenic Leptospira spp. are likely to encounter higher concentrations of reactive oxygen species induced by the host innate immune response. In this study, we characterized Leptospira interrogans catalase (KatE), the only annotated catalase found within pathogenic Leptospira species, by assessing its role in resistance to H(2)O(2)-induced oxidative stress and during infection in hamsters. Pathogenic L. interrogans bacteria had a 50-fold-higher survival rate under H(2)O(2)-induced oxidative stress than did saprophytic L. biflexa bacteria, and this was predominantly catalase dependent. We also characterized KatE, the only annotated catalase found within pathogenic Leptospira species. Catalase assays performed with recombinant KatE confirmed specific catalase activity, while protein fractionation experiments localized KatE to the bacterial periplasmic space. The insertional inactivation of katE in pathogenic Leptospira bacteria drastically diminished leptospiral viability in the presence of extracellular H(2)O(2) and reduced virulence in an acute-infection model. Combined, these results suggest that L. interrogans KatE confers in vivo resistance to reactive oxygen species induced by the host innate immune response.
Our objective was to identify local animal reservoirs of leptospirosis to explain the unusual features of Leptospira strains recently described among patients on the island of Mayotte. By means of a microscopic agglutination test using local clinical isolates, we found that 11.2% of black rats were seropositive to Leptospira, whereas 10.2% of flying foxes, 2% of lemurs, 93.1% of domestic dogs, and 87.5% of stray dogs were seropositive. As observed in humans, Mini was the main serogroup circulating in animals, whereas serogroup Icterohaemorrhagiae was absent. Using quantitative polymerase chain reaction, we also showed that 29.8% of rats carried leptospires in their kidneys. The sequencing of 16S rRNA gene sequences of Leptospira found in black rat kidneys identified four genomospecies (Leptospira borgpetersenii, Leptospira interrogans, Leptospira kirschneri, and L. borgpetersenii group B), which established black rats as the major source of leptospirosis transmission to humans. The origins of such a genetic diversity in Leptospira strains are discussed.
Spirochetes have periplasmic flagella composed of a core surrounded by a sheath. The pathogen Leptospira interrogans has four flaB (proposed core subunit) and two flaA (proposed sheath subunit) genes. The flaA genes are organized in a locus with flaA2 immediately upstream of flaA1. In this study, flaA1 and flaA2 mutants were constructed by transposon mutagenesis. Both mutants still produced periplasmic flagella. The flaA1 mutant did not produce FlaA1 but continued to produce FlaA2 and retained normal morphology and virulence in a hamster model of infection but had reduced motility. The flaA2 mutant did not produce either the FlaA1 or the FlaA2 protein. Cells of the flaA2 mutant lacked the distinctive hook-shaped ends associated with L. interrogans and lacked translational motility in liquid and semisolid media. These observations were confirmed with a second, independent flaA2 mutant. The flaA2 mutant failed to cause disease in animal models of acute infection. Despite lacking FlaA proteins, the flagella of the flaA2 mutant were of the same thickness as wild-type flagella, as measured by electron microscopy, and exhibited a normal flagellum sheath, indicating that FlaA proteins are not essential for the synthesis of the flagellum sheath, as observed for other spirochetes. This study shows that FlaA subunits contribute to leptospiral translational motility, cellular shape, and virulence.
In comparison to other bacterial species, genetics of leptospires are in their infancy. Recently, we developed a system for random transposon mutagenesis in the saprophyte Leptospira biflexa and then applied this approach to the pathogen L. interrogans. Thousands of random mutants can be readily obtained in -L. -biflexa by random insertion of Himar1 in the genome, thereby generating extensive libraries of mutants that could be screened for phenotypes affecting diverse aspects of the biology of the bacterium. This system should be particularly useful for the identification of new genes of unknown function in Leptospira spp. This chapter describes a procedure for transposition in L. biflexa via conjugation of a plasmid delivering Himar1, isolation of mutants, and mapping of the insertion sites on the chromosome.
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