Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Lack of a system for site specific genetic manipulation has severely hindered studies on the molecular biology of all Bartonella species. We report the first site-specific mutagenesis and complementation for a Bartonella species. A highly transformable strain of B. bacilliformis, termed JB584, was isolated and found to exhibit a significant increase in transformation efficiency with the broad-host-range plasmid pBBR1MCS-2, relative to wild-type strains. Restriction analyses of genomic preparations with the methylation-sensitive restriction enzymes ClaI and StuI suggest that strain JB584 possesses a dcm methylase mutation that contributes to its enhanced transformability. A suicide plasmid, pUB1, which contains a polylinker, a pMB1 replicon, and a nptI kanamycin resistance cassette, aas constructed. An internal 508-bp fragment of the B. bacilliformis flagellin gene (fla) was cloned into pUB1 to generate pUB508, a fla-targeting suicide vector. Introduction of pUB508 into JB584 by electroporation generated eight Kan(r) clones of B. bacilliformis, Characterization of one of these strains, termed JB585, indicated that allelic exchange between pUB508 and fla had occurred. Analysis by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, immunoblotting, and electron microscopy showed that synthesis of flagellin encoded by fla and secretion/assembly of flagella were abolished. Complementation of fla in trans was accomplished with a pBBR1MCS recombinant containing the entire wild-type fla gene (pBBRFLAG), These data conclusively show that inactivation of fla results in a bald, nonmotile phenotype and that pMB1 and REP replicons make suitable B. bacilliformis suicide and shuttle vectors, respectively. When used in conjunction with the highly transformable strain JB584, this system for site-specific genetic manipulation and complementation provides a new venue for studying the molecular biology of B. bacilliformis.