Strong PC, Hinchliffe SJ, Patrick H, Atkinson S, Champion OL, Wren BW
BACKGROUND: In order to identify new virulence determinants in Y. pseudotuberculosis a comparison between its genome and that of Yersinia pestis was undertaken. This reveals dozens of pseudogenes in Y. pestis, which are still putatively functional in Y. pseudotuberculosis and may be important in the enteric lifestyle. One such gene, YPTB1572 in the Y. pseudotuberculosis IP32953 genome sequence, encodes a protein with similarity to invasin, a classic adhesion/invasion protein, and to intimin, the attaching and effacing protein from enteropathogenic (EPEC) and enterohaemorraghic (EHEC) Escherichia coli. RESULTS: We termed YPTB1572 Ifp (Intimin family protein) and show that it is able to bind directly to human HEp-2 epithelial cells. Cysteine and tryptophan residues in the C-terminal region of intimin that are essential for function in EPEC and EHEC are conserved in Ifp. Protein binding occurred at distinct foci on the HEp-2 cell surface and can be disrupted by mutation of a single cysteine residue at the C-terminus of the protein. Temporal expression analysis using lux reporter constructs revealed that ifp is expressed at late log phase at 37°C in contrast to invasin, suggesting that Ifp is a late stage adhesin. An ifp defined mutant showed a reduction in adhesion to HEp-2 cells and was attenuated in the Galleria mellonella infection model. CONCLUSION: A new Y. pseudotuberculosis adhesin has been identified and characterised. This Ifp is a new member in the family of invasin/intimin outer membrane adhesins.