Survival strategies of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis in a variety of microenvironments.

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Survival strategies of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis in a variety of microenvironments.

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Mycobacteria, specifically Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP), are extreme strategists and as a rule live by deception. Mycobacteria represent a group of closely related acid-fast bacilli that encompass a wide-range of host tropisms and diseases. Mycobacteria can be divided into two complexes: the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex and the Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC). The MAC is comprised of M. avium subsp. avium (M. avium), MAP, M. intracellulare and M. avium subsp. hominissuis (M. hominissuis), all of which share an over 90 percent nucleotide similarity. Despite its genetic similarity, MAC elicits different diseases in both animals and humans including infections of the lung, lymph nodes, bones, skin and gastrointestinal tract. MAP is a unique member of MAC as it infects and establishes itself within the intestine of ruminants and other wildlife. Furthermore, MAP lives in a quiescent state in soil and aquatic environments. Since MAP encounters numerous environments, including those with unfavorable conditions, it has developed several strategies to survive. However, the mechanisms by which MAP survival is achieved remains incompletely understood. The goal of these studies was to determine how MAP may survive and disseminate under unfavorable conditions, which included nutrient starvation and host pressures. We have identified the development of a new MAP morphotype under prolonged nutrient starved conditions. This novel MAP morphotype resembles a spore-like structure and contains dipicolinic acid, which is used to protect DNA located within the core. These novel structures are heat resistant at 70oC and can be enriched for in multiple MAP strains. Furthermore, we describe an unrecognized mechanism by which MAP takes advantage of host responses at the epithelium interface to recruit macrophages to the site of initial infection. MAP is able to safely enter into macrophages and consequently ensures its establishment, survival and dissemination throughout the host. Lastly, we demonstrate the importance of host physiological relevant temperature on successful disease progression. Infection utilizing the temperature of MAP’s natural host, the cow, enhances the speed of infection as well as host and pathogen transcriptomic profiles. Taken together, data generated from these studies will provide the basis for understanding MAP persistence and survival in diverse conditions. The mechanisms by which MAP establishes, disseminates and/or survives difficult conditions may impact new programs to control JD as well as rational vaccine/therapeutic design and the way in which we view other mycobacterioses.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2012. Major: Comparative and Molecular Biosciences. Advisor: Srinand Sreevatsan, M.VSc., M.P.H., Ph.D., 1 computer file (PDF); iv, 179 pages.

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Lamont, Elise A.. (2012). Survival strategies of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis in a variety of microenvironments.. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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