Understanding mechanisms of bile salts resistance in Shigella flexneri
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The Shigella species are Gram-negative enteropathogens that produce severe diarrhea, cramping, and dehydration in millions of people annually. The pathogens most commonly infect children under the age of 5 years in developing nations, where the rise of multidrug-resistant species is increasingly problematic. Despite several attempts to develop a vaccine against these pathogens, no successful vaccine has been produced. In order to achieve this goal, several characteristics of Shigella must be further elucidated. Namely, we must better understand the mechanisms Shigella employs in order to circumvent the immune response. A key way in which Shigella circumvents the innate defenses of the host is through resistance to bile salts, the principal component of bile, a substance found in the small intestine that is required for digestion. One such bile salt resistance mechanism of Shigella involves lipopolysaccharide (LPS), an extracellular structure composed of three regions: a transmembrane lipid, a polysaccharide core, and an O-antigen. LPS and LPS modifications have been implicated in bile salts resistance in other enteropathogens. Thus, the goal of this study was to build from preliminary findings to understand the role of LPS in conferring bile salts resistance in Shigella. Two Shigella flexneri mutants were studied to understand the roles of the polysaccharide core and O-antigen on bacterial growth and LPS modifications during exposure to bile salts. Growth comparisons of the mutants relative to wild type bacteria in the presence of bile salts were performed, including analysis of growth with exposure to bile salts and with varying levels of environmental glucose. Additionally, LPS was extracted from wild type and mutant bacteria grown in these conditions for analysis by sodium dodecyl sulphate–polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE). The growth curves demonstrated that both the O-antigen and polysaccharide core mutants exhibited slow growth with exposure to bile salts, while the SDS-PAGE analyses revealed changes in the LPS profile of wild type and both LPS mutants when grown in bile salts. These data indicate that the O-antigen likely has an important role in conferring bile salts resistance and that the polysaccharide core may also facilitate resistance. This study allows us to better understand how LPS contributes to bile salts resistance in S. flexneri, which may enhance efforts to develop an effective vaccine against this pathogen.