Analysis of Spleen-Induced Fimbria Production in Recombinant Attenuated Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium Vaccine Strains
Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium genome encodes 13 fimbrial operons. Most of the fimbriae encoded by these operons are not produced under laboratory conditions but are likely to be synthesized in vivo. We used an in vivo expression technology (IVET) strategy to identify four fimbrial operons, agf, saf, sti, and stc that are expressed in the spleen. When any three of these operons were deleted, the strain retained wild-type virulence. However, when all four operons were deleted, the resulting strain was completely attenuated, indicating that these four fimbriae play functionally redundant roles critical for virulence. In mice, oral doses of as low as 1 × 10[superscript 5] CFU of the strain with four fimbrial operons deleted provided 100% protection against challenge with 1 × 10[superscript 9] CFU of wild-type S. Typhimurium. We also examined the possible effect of these fimbriae on the ability of a Salmonella vaccine strain to deliver a guest antigen. We modified one of our established attenuated vaccine strains, χ9088, to delete three fimbrial operons while the fourth operon was constitutively expressed. Each derivative was modified to express the Streptococcus pneumoniae antigen PspA. Strains that constitutively expressed saf or stc elicited a strong Th1 response with significantly greater levels of anti-PspA serum IgG and greater protective efficacy than strains carrying saf or stc deletions. The isogenic strain in which all four operons were deleted generated the lowest anti-PspA levels and did not protect against challenge with virulent S. pneumoniae. Our results indicate that these fimbriae play important roles, as yet not understood, in Salmonella virulence and immunogenicity.