Salmonella enterica serovar Kentucky has become the most frequently isolated serovar from poultry in the United States over the past decade. Despite its prevalence in poultry, it causes few human illnesses in the United States. The dominance of S. Kentucky in poultry does not appear to be due to single introduction of a clonal strain, and its reduced virulence appears to correlate with the absence of virulence genes grvA, sseI, sopE, and sodC1. S. Kentucky's prevalence in poultry is possibly attributable to its metabolic adaptation to the chicken cecum. While there were no difference in the growth rate of S. Kentucky and S. Typhimurium grown microaerophilically in cecal contents, S. Kentucky persisted longer when chickens were coinfected with S. Typhimurium. The in vivo advantage that S. Kentucky has over S. Typhimurium appears to be due to differential regulation of core Salmonella genes via the stationary-phase sigma factor rpoS. Microarray analysis of Salmonella grown in cecal contents in vitro identified several metabolic genes and motility and adherence genes that are differentially activated in S. Kentucky. The contributions of four of these operons (mgl, prp, nar, and csg) to Salmonella colonization in chickens were assessed. Deletion of mgl and csg reduced S. Kentucky persistence in competition studies in chickens infected with wild-type or mutant strains. Subtle mutations affecting differential regulation of core Salmonella genes appear to be important in Salmonella's adaptation to its animal host and especially for S. Kentucky's emergence as the dominant serovar in poultry.
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