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Different weapons to kill the same target: the strategies of Vibrio, an oyster pathogen

the strategies of Vibrio, an oyster pathogen
The success of an infection depends both on the pathogen virulence factors and on the immune system of their hosts. In an article published in June 2019 in PNAS, researchers from the IHPE laboratory (UMR UPVD / CNRS / Ifremer / UM) show that the Vibrio species pathogenic for oysters have developed various mechanisms allowing them to overcome the powerful cellular defenses of their host to cause systemic infections.

Various species of Vibrio cause important infectious diseases for humans and animal species. In oyster, these pathogens are associated with various diseases causing major losses in hatcheries and farms.

The authors - supported by funding from the ANR project "Decipher" and the Horizon 2020 "Vivaldi" project - studied Vibrio infections in oysters, an ecologically relevant host for which virulent and non-virulent Vibrio strains were isolated from the field.

They show that the virulent species of Vibrio use different mechanisms to escape the cellular defenses of their host. These mechanisms are based on distinct molecular determinants that are shared across strains of the same species of Vibrio, but which differ among species.

Using cytotoxicity to kill host immune cells

The different mechanisms of cytotoxicity nevertheless converge towards the same crucial result, the lysis of the host immune cells. This cytotoxicity allows virulent strains to cause systemic infections.

Although cytotoxicity is a well-known feature of pathogenic Vibrio for humans and animal species, its role in escaping immune defenses has remained largely unexplored until now.


Vibrio pathogens of oyster attacking immune cells. Two mechanisms, whether or not dependent on phagocytosis, allow two species of Vibrio (in black) to destroy the oyster's immune cells (in yellow) and cause systemic infection.

This work reveals that mechanisms that actively target host immunity may be more common than previously thought among Vibrio species, including pathogens affecting humans, which share some pathogenicity mechanisms with oyster pathogens.

See also

Learn more:

Rubio T, Oyanedel D, Labreuche Y, Toulza E, Luo X, Bruto M, Chaparro C, Torres M, de Lorgeril J, Haffner P, Vidal-Dupiol J, Lagorce A, Petton B, Mitta G, Jacq A, Le Roux F, Charrière GM, Destoumieux-Garzón D. Species-specific mechanisms of cytotoxicity toward immune cells determine the successful outcome of Vibrio infections.Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Jul 9;116(28):14238-14247. doi:10.1073/pnas.1905747116.