The waaL gene is involved in lipopolysaccharide synthesis and plays a role on the bacterial pathogenesis of avian pathogenic Escherichia coli.

Research paper by Yue Y Han, Xiangan X Han, Shaohui S Wang, Qingmei Q Meng, Yuxi Y Zhang, Chan C Ding, Shengqing S Yu

Indexed on: 28 Jun '14Published on: 28 Jun '14Published in: Veterinary Microbiology


Avian pathogenic Escherichia coli (APEC) is a Gram-negative bacterium that causes avian colibacillosis, resulting in economically devastating to poultry industries worldwide. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) has been identified as an important virulence factor of E. coli. The waaL gene encodes O-antigen ligase, which is responsible for attaching the O-antigen to lipid A-core oligosaccharide. In this study, a mutant strain ΔwaaL was constructed from APEC serotype 2 strain DE17. The mutant strain showed a decreased swimming motility and resistance to complement-mediated killing but a similar growth rate in the culture, compared with its parent strain. In addition, the mutant LPS demonstrated different patterns in SDS-PAGE followed by silver staining and western blotting. Besides, the mutant strain significantly decreased its adherence and invasion abilities to DF-1 cells, compared to its parent strain DE17. Deletion of the waaL gene in DE17 reduced the bacterial virulence by 42.2-fold in ducklings, based on measurement of the median lethal dose (LD50). Additional analysis indicated that deletion of the waaL gene increased the biofilm formation ability and reduced the resistance to environmental stress. These results suggest that the waaL gene functions on the APEC LPS synthesis and bacterial pathogenesis.