Role of sigma factor RpoS in initial stages of Salmonella typhimurium infection

Cheryl A. Nickerson, Roy Curtiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


The sigma factor RpoS mediates the stationary-phase expression of a large group of genes, including those involved in resistance to a variety of environmental stresses, such as starvation, oxidation, and low pH. In addition, RpoS has been shown to regulate Salmonella virulence. In Salmonella typhimurium, RpoS controls the expression of the Salmonella plasmid virulence (spv) genes, which are required for systemic infection. However, the mechanism by which RpoS affects the pathogenicity of Salmonella remains incompletely defined. In this study, we focused on the ability of rpoS to affect the early stages of the infection process of S. typhimurium. An rpoS mutant of S. typhimurium exhibited wild-type abilities to attach to and invade Int-407 cells and J774 macrophage-like cells. In addition, rpoS did not affect the intracellular survival of S. typhimurium in either J774 macrophage-like cells or rat bone marrow-derived macrophages. However, the rpoS mutant demonstrated a decreased ability to colonize murine Peyer's patches after oral inoculation than its wild-type virulent parent strain showed. In addition, virulence plasmid-cured derivatives of the rpoS mutant were recovered in lower numbers from murine Peyer's patches than were plasmid-cured derivatives of the isogenic wild-type S. typhimurium. This indicates that RpoS regulation of chromosomally encoded genes is important for colonization of the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) by S. typhimurium. Microscopic analysis of histological sections taken from Peyer's patches after peroral infection of mice showed that, unlike its wild-type virulent parent strain, the isogenic rpoS mutant did not destroy the follicle-associated epithelium of the GALT. Furthermore, the rpoS mutant demonstrated a decreased ability to adhere to histological sections of murine Peyer's patches than its wild-type parent showed. Our data provide evidence for a role of RpoS in the interaction of Salmonella with cells of the GALT, specifically the Peyer's patches. This implicates the involvement of rpoS in the initial stages of systemic infection by Salmonella as opposed to infection leading to gastroenteritis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1814-1823
Number of pages10
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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