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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 137:33-40 (2019)  -  DOI:

Natural genetic transformation of Vibrio parahaemolyticus via pVA1 plasmid acquisition as a potential mechanism causing AHPND

Gerardo de Jesús Carrillo-Méndez1, Lina Angélica Zermeño-Cervantes2, Alberto Antony Venancio-Landeros3,5, Sergio Francisco Martínez Díaz2, César Salvador Cardona-Félix4,*

1Departamento Académico de Biología Marina, Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur, 23080 La Paz, BCS, Mexico
2Instituto Politécnico Nacional-CICIMAR, 23096 La Paz, BCS, Mexico
3Instituto de Biotecnología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 62210 Cuernavaca, Mor., Mexico
4CONACyT-Instituto Politécnico Nacional-CICIMAR, 23096 La Paz, BCS, Mexico
5Present address: Gene2Life, 36615 Irapuato, Gto., Mexico
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Vibrio parahaemolyticus is the causative bacterium of acute hepatopancreatic necrosis disease (AHPND) in white shrimp Litopenaeus vannamei. This bacterium secretes protein toxins whose genes are encoded in an auto-transmissible plasmid called pVA1. The presence of this plasmid in V. parahaemolyticus is determinant for disease development. Its propagation is not only linked to bacterial colonisation capacity but also to horizontal gene transfer mechanisms. Nevertheless, the active uptake of plasmid, which is known as natural genetic transformation (NGT), has not yet been proposed as a possible acquisition mechanism of the pVA1 plasmid among Vibrio species. Previous studies suggest that some Vibrio species have the ability to undergo NGT in the presence of chitin. Therefore, the objective of this study was to evaluate the induction of NGT mediated by chitin in V. parahaemolyticus (ATCC-17802) through its ability to incorporate and express the pVA1 plasmid. The results showed that a reference strain that does not initially contain the plasmid can incorporate the plasmid under the appropriate transformation conditions, and cause mortality in white shrimp similar to that observed for pathogenic strains isolated from infectious outbreaks. Given the management and conditions of a shrimp farm with large amounts of chitinous exoskeletons, it is feasible that NGT could be a possible acquisition mechanism of plasmid pVA1 among Vibrio species, turning a non-causative strain of V. parahaemolyticus into a causative strain. With this study, we have expanded the knowledge of the pathogenesis process mediated by NGT and the understanding of the possible propagation mechanisms of emerging diseases in the aquaculture sector.

KEY WORDS: Virulence factors · Vibrio parahaemolyticus · Acute hepatopancreatic necrosis disease · AHPND · Natural genetic transformation

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Cite this article as: Carrillo-Méndez GdJ, Zermeño-Cervantes LA, Venancio-Landeros AA, Díaz SFM, Cardona-Félix CS (2019) Natural genetic transformation of Vibrio parahaemolyticus via pVA1 plasmid acquisition as a potential mechanism causing AHPND. Dis Aquat Org 137:33-40.

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