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. 1994 Aug;62(8):3381-90.

BvgAS-mediated Signal Transduction: Analysis of Phase-Locked Regulatory Mutants of Bordetella Bronchiseptica in a Rabbit Model

Free PMC article

BvgAS-mediated Signal Transduction: Analysis of Phase-Locked Regulatory Mutants of Bordetella Bronchiseptica in a Rabbit Model

P A Cotter et al. Infect Immun. .
Free PMC article


Members of the Bordetella genus alternate between two distinct phenotypic phases in response to changes in their environment. This switch, termed phenotypic modulation, is mediated by the BvgAS sensory transduction system. We developed an animal model based on the interaction of Bordetella bronchiseptica with one of its natural hosts, the rabbit. To investigate the importance of BvgAS signal transduction, we constructed constitutive (RB53) and Bvg- (RB54) phase-locked derivatives of a wild-type strain, RB50. RB50 and RB53, but not RB54, established respiratory infections in B. bronchiseptica-free rabbits with an intranasal 50% infective dose of less than 200 organisms, and the course of the infection closely resembled that observed with naturally infected rabbits. Bacteria were recovered from the nasal cavity, larynx, trachea, and lungs in similar numbers from RB50- and RB53-infected rabbits, yet no pathology was detected by histological examination of lung and tracheal sections. The antibody responses in rabbits inoculated with RB50 or RB53 were quantitatively and qualitatively indistinguishable; high titers of antibodies were generated primarily against Bvg(+)-phase-specific antigens. No response against flagella, a Bvg- phase factor, was detected. Assessment of bacteria associated with alveolar macrophages indicated that only a small percentage of bacteria, if any, appear to be residing within lung macrophages. We also tested the ability of these strains to survive in a nutrient poor environment, conditions which may be encountered within certain niches in the host or in an environmental reservoir. The Bvg- phase was advantageous for growth under these conditions. Our results indicate the Bvg+ phase is sufficient for establishment of respiratory tract infection in the rabbit and the normal BvgAS-mediated response to environmental signals is not required during initial colonization. The Bvg- phase may play a role at later stages of infection, including persistence, transmission, or survival in the environment.

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