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Brucella melitensis 16M is a Gram-negative alpha2-proteobacterium responsible for abortion in goats and for Malta fever in humans. This facultative intracellular pathogen invades into and survives within both professional and non-professional phagocytes. Signature-tagged mutagenesis (STM) was used to identify genes required for the in vivo pathogenesis of Brucella. A library of transposon mutants was screened in a murine infection model. Out of 672 mutants screened, 20 were not recovered after a 5 day passage in BALB/c mice. The attenuation of 18 mutants was confirmed using an in vivo competition assay against the wild-type strain. The 18 mutants were characterized further for their ability to replicate in murine macrophages and in HeLa cells. The sequences disrupted by the transposon in the mutants have homology to genes coding for proteins of different functional classes: transport, amino acid and DNA metabolism, transcriptional regulation, peptidoglycan synthesis, a chaperone-like protein and proteins of unknown function. The mutants selected in this study provide new insights into the molecular basis of Brucella virulence.


Journal article


Mol Microbiol

Publication Date





543 - 551


Animals, Bacterial Proteins, Brucella melitensis, Brucellosis, DNA Transposable Elements, Gene Library, HeLa Cells, Humans, Macrophages, Mice, Mice, Inbred BALB C, Mutagenesis, Insertional, Virulence