Characterization of a Neochlamydia-like bacterium associated with epitheliocystis in cultured Arctic charr Salvelinus alpinus

Andrew Draghi, Julie Bebak, Vsevolod L. Popov, Alicia C. Noble, Steven J. Geary, A. Brian West, Philip Byrne, Salvatore Frasca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Infections of branchial epithelium by intracellular gram-negative bacteria, termed epitheliocystis, have limited culture of Arctic charr Salvelinus alpinus. To characterize a bacterium associated with epitheliocystis in cultured charr, gills were sampled for histopathologic examination, conventional and immunoelectron microscopy, in situ hybridization, 16S ribosomal DNA (rDNA) amplification, sequence analysis and phylogenetic inference. Sampling was conducted at the Freshwater Institute (Shepherdstown, West Virginia, USA) during outbreaks of epitheliocystis in April and May 2002. Granular, basophilic, cytoplasmic inclusions in charr gill were shown to stain with Macchiavello, Lendrum's phloxine-tartrazine and Gimenez histochemical techniques. Ultrastructurally, inclusions were membrane-bound and contained round to elongate reticulate bodies that were immunoreactive to an antibody against chlamydial lipopolysaccharide, suggesting the presence of similar epitopes. DNA extracted from gills supported amplification of the most polymorphic and phylogenetically relevant region of the 16S rRNA gene, which had 97 to 100% identity with several uncultured clinical Neochlamydia spp. (order Chlamydiales) Clones WB13 (AY225593.1) and WB258 (AY225594.1). Sequence-specific riboprobes localized to inclusions during in situ hybridization experiments. Taxonomic affiliation was inferred by distance- and parsimony-based phylogenetic analyses of the 16S sequence, which branched with Neochlamydia hartmannellae in the order Chlamydiales with high confidence. This is the first molecular characterization of a chlamydia associated with epitheliocystis in Arctic charr and the fourth Neochlamydia spp. sequence to be associated with epitheliocystis. Presence of a clinical neochlamydial sequence, first identified from a cat, in Arctic charr suggests a possible mammalian and piscine host range for some environmental chlamydiae.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-38
Number of pages12
JournalDiseases of Aquatic Organisms
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 7 2007


  • 16S ribosomal RNA gene
  • Arctic charr
  • Environmental chlamydiae
  • Epitheliocystis
  • In situ hybridization
  • Neochlamydia
  • Salvelinus
  • Ultrastructure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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