The type II secretion system is essential for erythrocyte lysis and gut colonization by the leech digestive tract symbiont Aeromonas veronii

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2011 Jan;77(2):597-603. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01621-10. Epub 2010 Nov 19.


Hemolysin and the type II secretion system (T2SS) have been shown to be important for virulence in many pathogens, but very few studies have shown their importance in beneficial microbes. Here, we investigated the importance of the type II secretion pathway in the beneficial digestive-tract association of Aeromonas veronii and the medicinal leech Hirudo verbana and revealed a critical role for the hemolysis of erythrocytes. A mutant with a miniTn5 insertion in exeM, which is involved in forming the inner membrane platform in the T2SS, was isolated by screening mutants for loss of hemolysis on blood agar plates. A hemolysis assay was used to quantify the mutant's deficiency in lysing sheep erythrocytes and revealed a 99.9% decrease compared to the parent strain. The importance of the T2SS in the colonization of the symbiotic host was assessed. Colonization assays revealed that the T2SS is critical for initial colonization of the leech gut. The defect was tied to the loss of hemolysin production by performing a colonization assay with blood containing lysed erythrocytes. This restored the colonization defect in the mutant. Complementation of the mutant using the promoter region and exeMN revealed that the T2SS is responsible for secreting hemolysin into the extracellular space and that both the T2SS and hemolysin export by the T2SS are critical for initial establishment of A. veronii in the leech gut.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aeromonas / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • DNA, Bacterial / chemistry
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Erythrocytes / microbiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology
  • Hemolysis*
  • Leeches / microbiology*
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / metabolism*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis, Insertional
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Sheep
  • Symbiosis*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Membrane Transport Proteins

Associated data

  • GENBANK/HM623429