The motility imparted by the periplasmic flagella (PF) of Serpulina hyodysenteriae is thought to play a pivotal role in the enteropathogenicity of this spirochete. The complex PF are composed of multiple class A and class B polypeptides. Isogenic strains containing specifically disrupted flaAl or flaB1 alleles remain capable of expressing PF, although such mutants display aberrant motility in vitro. To further examine the role that these proteins play in the maintenance of periplasmic flagellar structural integrity, motility, and fitness for intestinal colonization, we constructed a novel strain of S. hyodysenteriae which is deficient in both FlaA1 and FlaB1. To facilitate construction of this strain, a chloramphenicol gene cassette, with general application as a selectable marker in prokaryotes, was developed. The cloned flaAl and flaB1 genes were disrupted by replacement of internal fragments with chloramphenicol and kanamycin gene cassettes, respectively. The inactivated flagellar genes were introduced into S. hyodysenteriae, and allelic exchange at the targeted chromosomal flaA1 and flaB1 loci was verified by PCR analysis. Immunoblots or cell lysates with antiserum raised against purified FlaA or FlaB confirmed the absence of the corresponding sheath and core proteins in this dual flagellar mutant. These mutations selectively abolished the expression of the targeted genes without affecting the synthesis of other immunologically related FlaB proteins. The resulting flaA1 flaB1 mutant exhibited altered motility in vitro. Surprisingly, it was capable of assembling periplasmic flagella that were morphologically normal as evidenced by electron microscopy. The virulence of this strain was assessed in a murine model of swine dysentery by determining the incidence of cecal lesions and the persistence of S. hyodysenteriae in the gut. Mice challenged with the wild-type strain or a passage control strain showed a dose-related response to the challenge organism. The dual flagellar mutant was severely attenuated in murine challenge experiments, suggesting that the FlaA1 and FlaB1 proteins are dispensable for flagellar assembly but critical for normal flagellar function and colonization of mucosal surfaces of the gastrointestinal tract. This strain represents the first spirochete engineered to contain specifically defined mutations in more than one genetic locus
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