The aerobactin iron transport system genes in Shigella flexneri are present within a pathogenicity island

Steven A. Vokes, Stephanie A. Reeves, Alfredo G. Torres, Shelley M. Payne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


Genes encoding the synthesis and transport of aerobactin, a hydroxamate siderophore associated with increased virulence of enteric bacteria, were mapped within a pathogenicity island in Shigella flexneri. The island, designated SHI-2 for Shigella pathogenicity island 2, was located downstream of selC, the site of insertion of pathogenicity islands in several other enteric pathogens. DNA sequence analysis revealed the presence of multiple insertion sequences upstream and downstream of the aerobactin genes and an integrase gene that was nearly identical to an int gene found in Escherichia coli O157:H7. SHI-2 sequences adjacent to selC were similar to sequences at the junction between selC and pathogenicity islands found in E. coli O157:H7 and in enteropathogenic E. coli, but the junctions between the island and downstream yic genes were variable. SHI-2 also encoded immunity to the normally plasmid-encoded colicins I and V, suggesting a common origin for the aerobactin genes in both S. flexneri and E. coli pColV. Polymerase chain reaction and Southern hybridization data indicate that SHI-2 is present in the same location in Shigella sonnei, but the aerobactin genes are not located within SHI-2 in Shigella boydii or enteroinvasive E. coli. Shigella dysenteriae type 1 strains do not produce aerobactin but do contain sequences downstream of selC that are homologous to SH1-2. The presence of the aerobactin genes on plasmids in E. coli pColV and Salmonella, on a pathogenicity island in S. flexneri and S. sonnei and in a different chromosomal location in S. boydii and some E. coli suggests that these virulence-enhancing genes are mobile, and they may constitute an island within an island in S. flexneri.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-73
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Microbiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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