Phenotypic and Genotypic Evidence for L-Fucose Utilization by Campylobacter jejuni

Muroaka, Wayne
Zhang, Qijing
Zhang, Qijing
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Veterinary Microbiology and Preventive Medicine

Campylobacter jejuni remains among the leading causes of bacterial food-borne illness. The current understanding of Campylobacter physiology suggests that it is asaccharolytic and is unable to catabolize exogenous carbohydrates. Contrary to this paradigm, we provide evidence for l-fucose utilization by C. jejuni. The fucose phenotype, shown in chemically defined medium, is strain specific and linked to an 11-open reading frame (ORF) plasticity region of the bacterial chromosome. By constructing a mutation in fucP (encoding a putative fucose permease), one of the genes in the plasticity region, we found that this locus is required for fucose utilization. Consistent with their function in fucose utilization, transcription of the genes in the locus is highly inducible by fucose. PCR screening revealed a broad distribution of this genetic locus in strains derived from various host species, and the presence of this locus was consistently associated with fucose utilization. Birds inoculated with the fucP mutant strain alone were colonized at a level comparable to that by the wild-type strain; however, in cocolonization experiments, the mutant was significantly outcompeted by the wild-type strain when birds were inoculated with a low dose (105 CFU per bird). This advantage was not observed when birds were inoculated at a higher inoculum dose (108 CFU per bird). These results demonstrated a previously undescribed substrate that supports growth of C. jejuni and identified the genetic locus associated with the utilization of this substrate. These findings substantially enhance our understanding of the metabolic repertoire of C. jejuni and the role of metabolic diversity in Campylobacter pathobiology.


This article is published as Muraoka, Wayne T., and Qijing Zhang. "Phenotypic and genotypic evidence for L-fucose utilization by Campylobacter jejuni." Journal of bacteriology 193, no. 5 (2011): 1065-1075. doi: 10.1128/JB.01252-10. Posted with permission.