Hypermutation-induced <i>in vivo</i> oxidative stress resistance enhances <i>Vibrio cholerae</i> host adaptation

by Hui Wang, Xiaolin Xing, Jipeng Wang, Bo Pang, Ming Liu, Jessie Larios-Valencia, Tao Liu, Ge Liu, Saijun Xie, Guijuan Hao, Zhi Liu, Biao Kan, Jun Zhu

Bacterial pathogens are highly adaptable organisms, a quality that enables them to overcome changing hostile environments. For example, Vibrio cholerae, the causative agent of cholera, is able to colonize host small intestines and combat host-produced reactive oxygen species (ROS) during infection. To dissect the molecular mechanisms utilized by V. cholerae to overcome ROS in vivo, we performed a whole-genome transposon sequencing analysis (Tn-seq) by comparing gene requirements for colonization using adult mice with and without the treatment of the antioxidant, N-acetyl cysteine. We found that mutants of the methyl-directed mismatch repair (MMR) system, such as MutS, displayed significant colonization advantages in untreated, ROS-rich mice, but not in NAC-treated mice. Further analyses suggest that the accumulation of both catalase-overproducing mutants and rugose colony variants in NAC mice was the leading cause of mutS mutant enrichment caused by oxidative stress during infection. We also found that rugose variants could revert back to smooth colonies upon aerobic, in vitro culture. Additionally, the mutation rate of wildtype colonized in NAC mice was significantly higher than that in NAC+ mice. Taken together, these findings support a paradigm in which V. cholerae employs a temporal adaptive strategy to battle ROS during infection, resulting in enriched phenotypes. Moreover, ΔmutS passage and complementation can be used to model hypermuation in diverse pathogens to identify novel stress resistance mechanisms.

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