Molecular characterization of megaplasmids encoding the type VI secretion system in Campylobacter jejuni isolated from chicken livers and gizzards

Daya Marasini, Anand B Karki, John M Bryant, Robert J Sheaff, Mohamed K Fakhr
Scientific Reports 2020 July 27, 10 (1): 12514
Megaplasmids in Campylobacter spp. likely play important roles in antibiotic resistance, virulence, and horizontal gene transfer. In this study, megaplasmids pCJDM202 (119 kb) and pCJDM67L (116 kb) from C. jejuni strains WP2-202 and OD2-67, respectively, were sequenced and characterized. These megaplasmids contained genes for tetracycline resistance [tet(O)], the Type IV secretion system, conjugative transfer and the Type VI secretion system (T6SS). The T6SS genes in Campylobacter plasmids encoded genes and proteins that were similar to those identified in Campylobacter chromosomal DNA. When the megaplasmid pCJDM202 from C. jejuni WP2-202 was transferred via conjugation to C. jejuni NCTC11168 Nal+ , transconconjugants acquired tetracycline resistance and enhanced cytotoxicity towards red blood cells. A T6SS mutant of strain WP2-202 was generated and designated Δhcp3; the mutant was significantly impaired in its ability to lyse red blood cells and survive in defibrinated blood. The cytotoxicity of Campylobacter strains towards the human embryonic kidney cell line HEK 293 was not impacted by the T6SS. In summary, the T6SS encoded by Campylobacter megaplasmids mediates lysis of RBCs and likely contributes to survival on retail meats where blood cells are abundant.

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