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Type IV pili is a critical virulence factor in clinical isolates of Paenibacillus thiaminolyticus.

bioRxiv 2022
Hehnly C, et al.

Christine Hehnly, Aiqin Shi, Paddy Ssentongo, Lijun Zhang, Albert Isaacs, Sarah U. Morton, Nicholas Streck, Petra Erdmann-Gilmore, Igor Tolstoy, R. Reid Townsend, David D. Limbrick, Joseph N. Paulson, Jessica E. Ericson, Michael Y. Galperin, Steven J. Schiff, James R. Broach

Hydrocephalus, the leading indication for childhood neurosurgery worldwide, is particularly prevalent in low-and-middle-income countries (LMICs). Hydrocephalus preceded by an infection, or postinfectious hydrocephalus (PIH), accounts for up to 60% of hydrocephalus in LMICs. Since many children with hydrocephalus suffer poor long-term outcomes despite surgical intervention, prevention of hydrocephalus remains paramount. Our previous studies implicated a novel bacterial pathogen, Paenibacillus thiaminolyticus, as a contributor to PIH in Uganda. Here we report the isolation of three P. thiaminolyticus strains, Mbale, Mbale2, and Mbale3, from patients with PIH and the demonstration that the three clinical isolates exhibit virulence in mice while P. thiaminolyticus type strain, B-4156, does not. We constructed complete genome assemblies of the clinical isolates as well as the reference strain and performed comparative genomics and proteomics analyses to identify potential virulence factors. One candidate virulence factor is a cluster of genes carried on a mobile genetic element that encodes a type IV pilus and is present in all three PIH patient strains but absent in the type strain. Proteomic and transcriptomic data confirmed the expression of this cluster of genes in the Mbale strain, while CRISPR-mediated deletion of the gene cluster substantially reduced the virulence of this strain. Our comparative proteogenomic analysis also identified various antibiotic resistance loci in the virulent strains. These results provide insight into the mechanism of virulence of Paenibacillus thiaminolyticus and suggest avenues for the diagnosis and treatment of this novel bacterial pathogen.

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