Salmonella enterica serovar Heidelberg (S. Heidelberg) can cause foodborne illness in humans following the consumption of contaminated meat and poultry products. Recent studies from our laboratory have demonstrated that certain S. Heidelberg isolated from food-animal sources harbor multiple transmissible plasmids with genes that encode antimicrobial resistance, virulence and a VirB4/D4 type-IV secretion system. This study examines the potential role of these transmissible plasmids in bacterial uptake and survival in intestinal epithelial cells and macrophages, and the molecular basis of host immune system modulation that may be associated with disease progression. A series of transconjugant and transformant strains were developed with different combinations of the plasmids to determine the roles of the individual and combinations of plasmids on virulence. Overall the Salmonella strains containing the VirB/D4 T4SS plasmids entered and survived in epithelial cells and macrophages to a greater degree than those without the plasmid, even though they carried other plasmid types. During entry in macrophages, the VirB/D4 T4SS encoding genes are up-regulated in a time-dependent fashion. When the potential mechanisms for increased virulence were examined using an antibacterial Response PCR Array, the strain containing the T4SS down regulated several host innate immune response genes which likely contributed to the increased uptake and survival within macrophages and epithelial cells.
Gokulan, K., Khare, S., Rooney, A. W., Han, J., Lynne, A. M., & Foley, S. L. (2013). Impact of Plasmids, Including Those EncodingVirB4/D4 Type IV Secretion Systems, on Salmonella enterica serovar Heidelberg Virulence in Macrophages and Epithelial Cells. PLoS ONE, 8(10). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0077866