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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Use of molecular hydrogen as an energy substrate by human pathogenic bacteria.

Molecular hydrogen is produced as a fermentation by-product in the large intestine of animals and its production can be correlated with the digestibility of the carbohydrates consumed. Pathogenic Helicobacter species (Helicobacter pylori and H. hepaticus) have the ability to use H(2) through a respiratory hydrogenase, and it was demonstrated that the gas is present in the tissues colonized by these pathogens (the stomach and the liver respectively of live animals). Mutant strains of H. pylori unable to use H(2) are deficient in colonizing mice compared with the parent strain. On the basis of available annotated gene sequence information, the enteric pathogen Salmonella, like other enteric bacteria, contains three putative membrane-associated H(2)-using hydrogenase enzymes. From the analysis of gene-targeted mutants it is concluded that each of the three membrane-bound hydrogenases of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium are coupled with an H(2)-oxidizing respiratory pathway. From microelectrode probe measurements on live mice, H(2) could be detected at approx. 50 muM levels within the tissues (liver and spleen), which are colonized by Salmonella. The half-saturation affinity of whole cells of these pathogens for H(2) is much less than this, so it is expected that the (H(2)-utilizing) hydrogenase enzymes be saturated with the reducing substrate in vivo. All three enteric NiFe hydrogenase enzymes contribute to virulence of the bacterium in a typhoid fever-mouse model, and the combined removal of all three hydrogenases resulted in a strain that is avirulent and (in contrast with the parent strain) one that is not able to pass the intestinal tract to invade liver or spleen tissue. It is proposed that H(2) utilization and specifically its oxidation, coupled with a respiratory pathway, is required for energy production to permit growth and maintain efficient virulence of a number of pathogenic bacteria during infection of animals. These would be expected to include the Campylobacter jejuni, a bacterium closely related to Helicobacter, as well as many enteric bacteria (Escherichia coli, Shigella and Yersinia species).[1]


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