In this study, we examined the relationship between the virulence of Shigella flexneri 2a and the ability of strains of S. flexneri 2a to absorb Congo red. Spontaneous nonpigmented (i.e., unable to bind Congo red [Pcr-]) derivatives of a virulent, pigmented (Pcr+) strain of S. flexneri 2a were isolated and assayed for virulence as determined by their ability to invade epithelial cells. All Pcr- mutants examined lost the ability to invade epithelial cells and were thus avirulent. Agarose gel electrophoresis of plasmid DNA from these avirulent, Pcr- mutants showed that the majority of these strains had lost a plasmid band corresponding to a virulence-associated plasmid, pSf2a140. In many of the mutants, concomitant loss of pigmentation, virulence, and pSf2a140 was accompanied by the appearance of a new plasmid, smaller than pSf2a140. We believe these new plasmids to be deletion derivatives of pSf2a140 and that loss of pigmentation and loss of virulence are associated with deletions in pSf2a140. We transduced Pcr- mutants to Pcr+ and isolated transductants which suppressed the Pcr- phenotype. None of the Pcr+ transductants regained the ability to invade epithelial cells. Several suppressors of the Pcr- phenotype were identified as mutations in cell wall biosynthesis. These results support our belief that although pigmentation is usually associated with virulence, genetic determinants unrelated to virulence can also affect the ability of the cell to bind Congo red. Therefore, the ability of S. flexneri 2a to bind Congo red does not necessarily imply the ability to invade epithelial cells. However, loss of ability to bind Congo red is accompanied by loss of virulence.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases