Role of Yersinia murine toxin in survival of Yersinia pestis in the midgut of the flea vector

Science. 2002 Apr 26;296(5568):733-5. doi: 10.1126/science.1069972.


Transmission by flea bite is a relatively recent adaptation that distinguishes Yersinia pestis, the plague bacillus, from closely related enteric bacteria. Here, a plasmid-encoded phospholipase D (PLD), previously characterized as Yersinia murine toxin (Ymt), was shown to be required for survival of Y. pestis in the midgut of its principal vector, the rat flea Xenopsylla cheopis. Intracellular PLD activity appeared to protect Y. pestis from a cytotoxic digestion product of blood plasma in the flea gut. By enabling colonization of the flea midgut, acquisition of this PLD may have precipitated the transition of Y. pestis to obligate arthropod-borne transmission.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Toxins / genetics
  • Bacterial Toxins / metabolism*
  • Digestive System / metabolism
  • Digestive System / microbiology
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Indirect
  • Insect Vectors / metabolism
  • Insect Vectors / microbiology*
  • Mutation
  • Phospholipase D / genetics
  • Phospholipase D / metabolism*
  • Phospholipase D / toxicity
  • Plague / transmission
  • Plasmids
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / toxicity
  • Siphonaptera / metabolism
  • Siphonaptera / microbiology*
  • Spheroplasts / physiology
  • Yersinia pestis / enzymology
  • Yersinia pestis / genetics
  • Yersinia pestis / pathogenicity
  • Yersinia pestis / physiology*


  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Phospholipase D