Identification of Virulence Determinants in Uropathogenic Proteus Mirabilis Using Signature-Tagged Mutagenesis

J Med Microbiol. 2008 Sep;57(Pt 9):1068-1078. doi: 10.1099/jmm.0.2008/002071-0.


The Gram-negative bacterium Proteus mirabilis causes urinary tract infections (UTIs) in individuals with long-term indwelling catheters or those with functional or structural abnormalities of the urinary tract. Known virulence factors include urease, haemolysin, fimbriae, flagella, DsbA, a phosphate transporter and genes involved in cell-wall synthesis and metabolism, many of which have been identified using the technique of signature-tagged mutagenesis (STM). To identify additional virulence determinants and to increase the theoretical coverage of the genome, this study generated and assessed 1880 P. mirabilis strain HI4320 mutants using this method. Mutants with disruptions in genes vital for colonization of the CBA mouse model of ascending UTI were identified after performing primary and secondary in vivo screens in approximately 315 CBA mice, primary and secondary in vitro screens in both Luria broth and minimal A medium to eliminate mutants with minor growth deficiencies, and co-challenge competition experiments in approximately 500 CBA mice. After completion of in vivo screening, a total of 217 transposon mutants were attenuated in the CBA mouse model of ascending UTI. Following in vitro screening, this number was reduced to 196 transposon mutants with a probable role in virulence. Co-challenge competition experiments confirmed significant attenuation for 37 of the 93 transposon mutants tested, being outcompeted by wild-type HI4320. Following sequence analysis of the 37 mutants, transposon insertions were identified in genes including the peptidyl-prolyl isomerases surA and ppiA, glycosyltransferase cpsF, biopolymer transport protein exbD, transcriptional regulator nhaR, one putative fimbrial protein, flagellar M-ring protein fliF and hook protein flgE, and multiple metabolic genes.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Surface Extensions / physiology
  • DNA Transposable Elements / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred CBA
  • Mutagenesis
  • Phenotype
  • Proteus mirabilis / genetics
  • Proteus mirabilis / pathogenicity*
  • Proteus mirabilis / physiology
  • Urinary Tract Infections / microbiology*
  • Virulence
  • Virulence Factors / analysis*
  • Virulence Factors / genetics


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Virulence Factors