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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 76:17-26 (2007)  -  doi:10.3354/dao076017

Streptococcus iniae β-hemolysin streptolysin S is a virulence factor in fish infection

Jeffrey B. Locke1,2, Kelly M. Colvin3, Nissi Varki4, Mike R. Vicknair3, Victor Nizet1,2, John T. Buchanan1,3,*

1Department of Pediatrics, Division of Pharmacology & Drug Discovery, and 4Department of Pathology, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, MC 0687, La Jolla, California 92093-0687, USA
2Center for Marine Biotechnology & Biomedicine, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, MC 0208, La Jolla, California 92093-0208, USA 3Kent SeaTech Corporation, 11125 Flintkote Avenue, Suite J, San Diego, California 92121, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Streptococcus iniae is a leading pathogen of intensive aquaculture operations worldwide, although understanding of virulence mechanisms of this pathogen in fish is lacking. S. iniae possesses a homolog of streptolysin S (SLS), a secreted, pore-forming cytotoxin that is a proven virulence factor in the human pathogen S. pyogenes. Here we used allelic exchange mutagenesis of the structural gene for the S. iniae SLS precursor (sagA) to examine the role of SLS in S. iniae pathogenicity using in vitro and in vivo models. The isogenic ΔsagA mutant was less cytotoxic to fish blood cells and cultured epithelial cells, but comparable to wild-type (WT) S. iniae in adherence/invasion of epithelial cell monolayers and resisting phagocytic killing by fish whole blood or macrophages. In a hybrid striped bass infection model, loss of SLS production led to marked virulence attenuation, as injection of the ΔsagA mutant at 1000× the WT lethal dose (LD80) produced only 10% mortality. The neutralization of SLS could represent a novel strategy for control of S. iniae infection in aquaculture.

KEY WORDS: Streptococcus iniae · Streptolysin S · β-Hemolysin · Virulence factor · Hybrid striped bass · Aquaculture

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