The plague bacterium Yersinia pestis has a number of well-described strategies to protect itself from both host cells and soluble factors. In an effort to identify additional anti-host factors, we employed a transposon site hybridization (TraSH)-based approach to screen 10(5)Y. pestis mutants in an in vitro infection system. In addition to loci encoding various components of the well-characterized type III secretion system (T3SS), our screen unambiguously identified ompA as a pro-survival gene. We go on to show that an engineered Y. pestis ΔompA strain, as well as a ΔompA strain of the closely related pathogen Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, have fully functioning T3SSs but are specifically defective in surviving within macrophages. Additionally, the Y. pestis ΔompA strain was out competed by the wild-type strain in a mouse co-infection assay. Unlike in other bacterial pathogens in which OmpA can promote adherence, invasion, or serum resistance, the OmpA of Y. pestis is restricted to enhancing intracellular survival. Our data show that OmpA of the pathogenic Yersinia is a virulence factor on par with the T3SS.
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