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Francisella tularensis is an intracellular pathogen and the causative agent of tularemia. The F. tularensis type six secretion system (T6SS) is required for a number of host-pathogen interactions, including phagolysosomal escape and invasion of erythrocytes. One known effector of the T6SS, OpiA, has recently been shown to be a phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase. To investigate the role of OpiA in erythrocyte invasion, we constructed an opiA-null mutant in the live vaccine strain, F. tularensis LVS. OpiA was not required for erythrocyte invasion; however, deletion of opiA affected growth of F. tularensis LVS in broth cultures in a medium-dependent manner. We also found that opiA influenced cell size, gentamicin sensitivity, bacterial viability, and the lipid content of F. tularensis A fluorescently tagged OpiA (OpiA-emerald-green fluorescent protein [EmGFP]) accumulated at the cell poles of F. tularensis, which is consistent with the location of the T6SS. However, OpiA-EmGFP also exhibited a highly dynamic localization, and this fusion protein was detected in erythrocytes and THP-1 cells in vitro, further supporting that OpiA is secreted. Similar to previous reports with F. novicida, our data demonstrated that opiA had a minimal effect on intracellular replication of F. tularensis in host immune cells in vitro However, THP-1 cells infected with the opiA mutant produced modestly (but significantly) higher levels of the proinflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor alpha compared to these host cells infected with wild-type bacteria. We conclude that, in addition to its role in host-pathogen interactions, our results reveal that the function of opiA is central to the biology of F. tularensis bacteria.IMPORTANCE F. tularensis is a pathogenic intracellular pathogen that is of importance for public health and strategic defense. This study characterizes the opiA gene of F. tularensis LVS, an attenuated strain that has been used as a live vaccine but that also shares significant genetic similarity to related Francisella strains that cause human disease. The data presented here provide the first evidence of a T6SS effector protein that affects the physiology of F. tularensis, namely, the growth, cell size, viability, and aminoglycoside resistance of F. tularensis LVS. This study also adds insight into our understanding of OpiA as a determinant of virulence. Finally, the fluorescence fusion constructs presented here will be useful tools for dissecting the role of OpiA in infection. Copyright © 2020 American Society for Microbiology.


Stuart Cantlay, Kristen Haggerty, Joseph Horzempa. OpiA, a Type Six Secretion System Substrate, Localizes to the Cell Pole and Plays a Role in Bacterial Growth and Viability in Francisella tularensis LVS. Journal of bacteriology. 2020 Jun 25;202(14)

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PMID: 32366588

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