Characterization of trh2 Harbouring Vibrio parahaemolyticus Strains Isolated in Germany
Background Vibrio parahaemolyticus is a recognized human enteropathogen. Thermostable direct hemolysin (TDH) and TDH-related hemolysin (TRH) as well as the type III secretion system 2 (T3SS2) are considered as major virulence factors. As tdh positive strains are not detected in coastal waters of Germany, we focused on the characterization of trh positive strains, which were isolated from mussels, seawater and patients in Germany. Results Ten trh harbouring V. parahaemolyticus strains from Germany were compared to twenty-one trh positive strains from other countries. The complete trh sequences revealed clustering into three different types: trh1 and trh2 genes and a pseudogene psi trh. All German isolates possessed alleles of the trh2 gene. MLST analysis indicated a close relationship to Norwegian isolates suggesting that these strains belong to the autochthonous microflora of Northern Europe seawaters. Strains carrying the pseudogene psi trh were negative for T3SS2 beta effector vopC. Transcription of trh and vopC genes was analyzed under different growth conditions. Trh2 gene expression was not altered by bile while trh1 genes were inducible. VopC could be induced by urea in trh2 bearing strains. Most trh1 carrying strains were hemolytic against sheep erythrocytes while all trh2 positive strains did not show any hemolytic activity. TRH variants were synthesized in a prokaryotic cell-free system and their hemolytic activity was analyzed. TRH1 was active against sheep erythrocytes while TRH2 variants were not active at all. Conclusion Our study reveals a high diversity among trh positive V. parahaemolyticus strains. The function of TRH2 hemolysins and the role of the pseudogene psi trh as pathogenicity factors are questionable. To assess the pathogenic potential of V. parahaemolyticus strains a differentiation of trh variants and the detection of T3SS2 beta components like vopC would improve the V. parahaemolyticus diagnostics and could lead to a refinement of the risk assessment in food analyses and clinical diagnostics.