Unique virulence properties of Yersinia enterocolitica O:3--an emerging zoonotic pathogen using pigs as preferred reservoir host

Int J Med Microbiol. 2014 Oct;304(7):824-34. doi: 10.1016/j.ijmm.2014.07.008. Epub 2014 Jul 25.


Enteropathogenic Yersinia enterocolitica bioserotype 4/O:3 are the most frequent cause of human yersiniosis worldwide with symptoms ranging from mild diarrhea to severe complications of mesenteric lymphadenitis, liver abscesses and postinfectious extraintestinal sequelae. The main reservoir host of 4/O:3 strains are pigs, which represent a substantial disease-causing potential for humans, as they are usually asymptomatic carriers. Y. enterocolitica O:3 initiates infections by tight attachment to the intestinal mucosa. Colonization of the digestive tract is frequently followed by invasion of the intestinal layer primarily at the follicle-associated epithelium, allowing the bacteria to propagate in the lamina propria and disseminate into deeper tissues. Molecular characterization of Y. enterocolitica O:3 isolates led to the identification of (i) alternative virulence and fitness factors and (ii) small genetic variations which cause profound changes in their virulence gene expression pattern (e.g. constitutive expression of the primary invasion factor InvA). These changes provoke a major difference in the virulence properties, i.e. reduced colonization of intestinal tissues in mice, but improved long-term colonization in the pig intestine. Y. enterocolitica O:3 strains cause also a considerably lower level of proinflammatory cytokine IL-8 and higher levels of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 in porcine primary macrophages, as compared to murine macrophages, which could contribute to limiting inflammation, immunopathology and severity of the infection in pigs.

Keywords: Colonization; Invasion; Persistence; Pig model; Serotype O:3; Y. enterocolitica.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Reservoirs*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Interleukin-10 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-8 / metabolism
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / microbiology
  • Mice
  • Swine / microbiology*
  • Virulence
  • Virulence Factors / genetics
  • Yersinia Infections / immunology
  • Yersinia Infections / microbiology
  • Yersinia Infections / pathology
  • Yersinia Infections / veterinary*
  • Yersinia enterocolitica / genetics
  • Yersinia enterocolitica / physiology*


  • Interleukin-8
  • Virulence Factors
  • Interleukin-10