Clostridium difficile infection is a growing problem in healthcare settings worldwide and results in a considerable socioeconomic impact. New hypervirulent strains and acquisition of antibiotic resistance exacerbates pathogenesis; however, the survival strategy of C. difficile in the challenging gut environment still remains incompletely understood. We previously reported that clinically relevant heat-stress (37–41 °C) resulted in a classical heat-stress response with up-regulation of cellular chaperones. We used ClosTron to construct an insertional mutation in the dnaK gene of C. difficile 630 Δerm. The dnaK mutant exhibited temperature sensitivity, grew more slowly than C. difficile 630 Δerm and was less thermotolerant. Furthermore, the mutant was non-motile, had 4-fold lower expression of the fliC gene and lacked flagella on the cell surface. Mutant cells were some 50% longer than parental strain cells, and at optimal growth temperatures, they exhibited a 4-fold increase in the expression of class I chaperone genes including GroEL and GroES. Increased chaperone expression, in addition to the non-flagellated phenotype of the mutant, may account for the increased biofilm formation observed. Overall, the phenotype resulting from dnaK disruption is more akin to that observed in Escherichia coli dnaK mutants, rather than those in the Gram-positive model organism Bacillus subtilis.
- Clostridium difficile gut pathogen ClosTron
- chaperone gene dnaK