Identification of Brucella spp. genes involved in intracellular trafficking

Cell Microbiol. 2001 Jul;3(7):487-97. doi: 10.1046/j.1462-5822.2001.00131.x.


After uptake by host cells, the pathogen Brucella transits through early endosomes, evades phago-lysosome fusion and replicates in a compartment associated with the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). The molecular mechanisms underlying these processes are still poorly understood. To identify new bacterial factors involved in these processes, a library of 1800 Brucella melitensis 16M mini-Tn5catkm mutants was screened for intracellular survival and multiplication in HeLa cells and J774A.1 macrophages. Thirteen mutants were identified as defective for their intracellular survival in both cell types. In 12 of them, the transposon had inserted in the virB operon, which encodes a type IV-related secretion system. The preponderance of virB mutants demonstrates the importance of this secretion apparatus in the intracellular multiplication of B. melitensis. We also examined the intracellular fate of three virB mutants (virB2, virB4 and virB9) in HeLa cells by immunofluorescence. The three VirB proteins are not necessary for penetration and the inhibition of phago-lysosomal fusion within non-professional phagocytes. Rather, the virB mutants are unable to reach the replicative niche and reside in a membrane-bound vacuole expressing the late endosomal marker, LAMP1, and the sec61beta protein from the ER membrane, proteins that are present in autophagic vesicles originating from the ER.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Biological Transport
  • Brucella melitensis / genetics*
  • Brucella melitensis / metabolism*
  • Cell Compartmentation
  • Cell Division / genetics
  • DNA Replication / genetics
  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Endocytosis / genetics
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • HeLa Cells / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Virulence Factors*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Virulence Factors