Characterization of virulence plasmids and plasmid-associated outer membrane proteins in Shigella flexneri, Shigella sonnei, and Escherichia coli
The 140-megadalton plasmids of Shigella flexneri serotypes 1, 3, and 5, in addition to the 120-megadalton plasmid of Shigella sonnei, are associated with virulence. The present study showed that a 140-megadalton plasmid is also associated with virulence in Escherichia coli. When these plasmids were cleaved with EcoRI or BamHI restriction endonucleases, considerable homology was evident in plasmids from S. sonnei strains, whereas only a few common fragments were observed among the S. flexneri and enteroinvasive E. coli plasmids. Nitrocellulose filter hybridization demonstrated that, despite variations in restriction sites, all these plasmids shared a considerable complement of homologous sequences. Minicell-producing strains were obtained by N-methyl-N'-nitro-N-nitrosoguanidine mutagenesis. Transmission electron microscopy of infected HeLa cells showed that minicells from invasive strains retained the invasive phenotype. Sixteen polypeptides were labeled when S. flexneri 5 minicells were incubated with [35S]methionine. Fourteen of these plasmid-coded polypeptides were associated with the outer membrane in invasive strains of S. flexneri 5, and nine polypeptides of similar molecular weight were labeled in the outer membrane of invasive strains of S. flexneri 3, S. sonnei, and E. coli. Seven of the S. flexneri 5 polypeptides were not labeled in a noninvasive strain which had sustained a large deletion in the virulence-associated plasmid, and none were labeled in minicells which no longer harbored this plasmid.