Salmonella spp. are pathogenic enterobacteria that employ type III secretion systems to translocate effector proteins and modulate responses of host cells. The repertoire of translocated effector proteins is thought to define host specificity and epidemic virulence, and varies even between closely related Salmonella strains. Therefore, horizontal transfer of effector protein genes between Salmonella strains plays a key role in shaping the Salmonella-host interaction. Several effector protein genes are located in temperate phages. The P2-like phage SopE Phi encodes SopE and the lambda-like GIFSY phages encode several effector proteins of the YopM/IpaH-family. Lysogenic conversion with these phages is responsible for much of the diversity of the effector protein repertoires observed among Salmonella spp. However, free exchange of effector proteins by lysogenic conversion can be restricted by superinfection immunity. To identify genetic mechanisms that may further enhance horizontal transfer of effector genes, we have analyzed sopE loci from Salmonella spp. that do not harbor P2-like sequences of SopE Phi. In two novel sopE loci that were identified, the 723 nt sopE gene is located in a conserved 1.2 kb cassette present also in SopE Phi. Most strikingly, in Salmonella enterica subspecies I serovars Gallinarum, Enteritidis, Hadar and Dublin, the sopE-cassette is located in a cryptic lambda-like prophage with similarity to the GIFSY phages. This provides the first evidence for transfer of virulence genes between different phage families. We show that such a mechanism can circumvent restrictions to phage-mediated gene transfer and thereby enhances reassortment of the effector protein repertoires in Salmonella spp.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.