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    Comparative genomics analyses indicated that the Flavobacterium columnare genome has unique denitrification genes relative to Flavobacterium psychrophilum and Flavobacterium johnsoniae, including nasA (nitrate reductase), nirS (nitrite reductase), norB (nitric oxide reductase) and nosZ (nitrous oxide reductase). The current study determines the roles of nasA, nirS, norB and nosZ in anaerobic growth, nitrate reduction, biofilm formation and virulence. Four in-frame deletion mutants in virulent F. columnare strain 94-081 were constructed by allelic exchange using pCP29 plasmid. Compared with parent strain 94-081, FcΔnasA,FcΔnirS and FcΔnosZ mutants did not grow as well anaerobically, whereas the growth of FcΔnorB strain was similar to the parent strain (FcWT). Exogenous nitrate was not significantly consumed under anaerobic conditions in FcΔnasA, FcΔnirS and FcΔnosZ compared to parent strain 94-081. Under anaerobic conditions, Fc∆nasA, Fc∆norB and Fc∆nosZ formed significantly less biofilm than the wild type strain at 24 and 96 h, but FcΔnirS was not significantly affected. The nitrite reductase mutant FcΔnirS was highly attenuated in catfish, whereas FcΔnasA, FcΔnorB and FcΔnosZ had similar virulence to FcWT. These results show, for the first time, that denitrification genes enable F. columnare to grow anaerobically using nitrate as an electron acceptor, and nitrite reductase contributes to F. columnare virulence. These findings indicate potential for F. columnare to grow in nitrate-rich anaerobic zones in catfish production ponds, and they suggest that a Fc∆nirS strain could be useful as a safe live vaccine if it protects catfish against columnaris disease. © 2020 The Society for Applied Microbiology.


    H Abdelhamed, S W Nho, A Karsi, M L Lawrence. The role of denitrification genes in anaerobic growth and virulence of Flavobacterium columnare. Journal of applied microbiology. 2021 Apr;130(4):1062-1074

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    PMID: 32955778

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