The two-component system RstAB regulates production of a polysaccharide capsule with a role in virulence in the marine pathogen Photobacterium damselae subsp. damselae

Environ Microbiol Rep. 2021 Jul 26. doi: 10.1111/1758-2229.12997. Online ahead of print.


The marine bacterium Photobacterium damselae subsp. damselae (Pdd) causes disease in marine animals and in humans. Previous studies demonstrated that mutation of the two-component system RstAB strongly impacts virulence of this pathogen, but the RstAB regulon has not been thoroughly elucidated. We here compared the transcriptomes of Pdd RM-71 and ΔrstA and ΔrstB derivatives using RNA-seq. In accordance with previous studies, RstAB positively regulated cytotoxins Dly, PhlyP and PhlyC. This analysis also demonstrated a positive regulation of outer membrane proteins, resistance against antimicrobials and potential virulence factors by this system. Remarkably, RstAB positively regulated two hitherto uncharacterised gene clusters involved in the synthesis of a polysaccharide capsule. Presence of a capsular layer in wild type cells was confirmed by transmission electron microscopy, whereas rstA and rstB mutants were non-capsulated. Mutants for capsule synthesis genes wza and wzc exhibited acapsular phenotypes, were impaired in resistance against the bactericidal action of fish serum and mucus, and were strongly impaired in virulence for fish, indicating a major role of capsule in virulence. Collectively, this study demonstrates that RstAB is a major positive regulator of key virulence factors including a polysaccharide capsule essential for full virulence in a pathogenic Photobacterium. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Photobacterium damselae; RstA; RstB; Vibrionaceae; aquaculture; capsule; damselysin; phobalysin; two-component system.