Genetic analysis of the Cronobacter sakazakii O4 to O7 O-antigen gene clusters and development of a PCR assay for identification of all C. sakazakii O serotypes.

Research paper by Yamin Y Sun, Min M Wang, Quan Q Wang, Boyang B Cao, Xin X He, Kun K Li, Lu L Feng, Lei L Wang

Indexed on: 27 Mar '12Published on: 27 Mar '12Published in: Applied and environmental microbiology


The Gram-negative bacterium Cronobacter sakazakii is an emerging food-borne pathogen that causes severe invasive infections in neonates. Variation in the O-antigen lipopolysaccharide in the outer membrane provides the basis for Gram-negative bacteria serotyping. The O-antigen serotyping scheme for C. sakazakii, which includes seven serotypes (O1 to O7), has been recently established, and the O-antigen gene clusters and specific primers for three C. sakazakii serotypes (O1, O2, and O3) have been characterized. In this study, the C. sakazakii O4, O5, O6, and O7 O-antigen gene clusters were sequenced, and gene functions were predicted on the basis of homology. C. sakazakii O4 shared a similar O-antigen gene cluster with Escherichia coli O103. The general features and anomalies of all seven C. sakazakii O-antigen gene clusters were evaluated and the relationship between O-antigen structures and their gene clusters were investigated. Serotype-specific genes for O4 to O7 were identified, and a molecular serotyping method for all C. sakazakii O serotypes, a multiplex PCR assay, was developed by screening against 136 strains of C. sakazakii and closely related species. The sensitivity of PCR-based serotyping method was determined to be 0.01 ng of genomic DNA and 10(3) CFU of each strain/ml. This study completes the elucidation of C. sakazakii O-antigen genetics and provides a molecular method suitable for the identification of C. sakazakii O1 to O7 strains.