A common virulence plasmid in biotype 2 Vibrio vulnificus and its dissemination aided by a conjugal plasmid

Chung Te Lee, Carmen Amaro, Keh Ming Wu, Esmeralda Valiente, Yi Feng Chang, Shih Feng Tsai, Chuan Hsiung Chang, Lien I. Hor*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article peer-review

53 Scopus citations


Strains of Vibrio vulnificus, a marine bacterial species pathogenic for humans and eels, are divided into three biotypes, and those virulent for eels are classified as biotype 2. All biotype 2 strains possess one or more plasmids, which have been shown to harbor the biotype 2-specific DNA sequences. In this study we determined the DNA sequences of three biotype 2 plasmids: pR99 (68.4 kbp) in strain CECT4999 and pC4602-1 (56.6 kb) and pC4602-2 (66.9 kb) in strain CECT4602. Plasmid pC4602-2 showed 92% sequence identity with pR99. Curing of pR99 from strain CECT4999 resulted in loss of resistance to eel serum and virulence for eels but had no effect on the virulence for mice, an animal model, and resistance to human serum. Plasmids pC4602-2 and pR99 could be transferred to the plasmid-cured strain by conjugation in the presence of pC4602-1, which was self-transmissible, and acquisition of pC4602-2 restored the virulence of the cured strain for eels. Therefore, both pR99 and pC4602-2 were virulence plasmids for eels but not mice. A gene in pR99, which encoded a novel protein and had an equivalent in pC4602-2, was further shown to be essential, but not sufficient, for the resistance to eel serum and virulence for eels. There was evidence showing that pC4602-2 may form a cointegrate with pC4602-1. An investigation of six other biotype 2 strains for the presence of various plasmid markers revealed that they all harbored the virulence plasmid and four of them possessed the conjugal plasmid in addition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1638-1648
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 03 2008
Externally publishedYes


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