Invasion and intracellular survival of Bordetella pertussis in HeLa 229 cells was studied by a new assay that utilizes polymyxin B instead of gentamicin to rapidly kill extracellular organisms. Invasion measured by this assay was time and temperature dependent and was inhibited by the microfilament drug cytochalasin D. The invasion process was also dependent on a functional vir locus (also known as bvg), the positive regulator of virulence gene expression in B. pertussis. Four spontaneous Vir- phase variants of B. pertussis and a mutant with a transposon insertion mutation in the vir locus did not invade. Cells that were environmentally modulated and thus did not express virulence determinants also did not invade. Two Vir- mutants, a vir-directed plasmid insertion mutant and a UV-light-induced mutant, were capable of invasion, although they did not produce other known virulence factors such as pertussis toxin and hemolysin but did produce small amounts of filamentous hemagglutinin (FHA) and the 69-kilodalton outer membrane protein. None of 70 Tn5 IS50L::phoA (TnphoA) insertion mutants of strain Bp18323 (including three mutants defective in FHA) tested showed any reproducible defect in invasion. A mutant carrying a site-directed deletion mutation in FHA was also capable of invasion in our assay. These data suggest that there is redundancy in the invasion functions of B. pertussis and that one or more of these are coordinately regulated with FHA and the 69-kilodalton outer membrane protein more tightly than with other vir-activated gene products
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