TitleSpecies of environmental mycobacteria differ in their abilities to grow in human, mouse, and carp macrophages and with regard to the presence of mycobacterial virulence genes, as observed by DNA microarray hybridization.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsHarriff, MJ, Wu, M, Kent, ML, Bermudez, LE
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Date Published2008 Jan
KeywordsVirulence Factors

There are many species of environmental mycobacteria (EM) that infect animals that are important to the economy and research and that also have zoonotic potential. The genomes of very few of these bacterial species have been sequenced, and little is known about the molecular mechanisms by which most of these opportunistic pathogens cause disease. In this study, 18 isolates of EM isolated from fish and humans (including strains of Mycobacterium avium, Mycobacterium peregrinum, Mycobacterium chelonae, and Mycobacterium salmoniphilum) were examined for their abilities to grow in macrophage lines from humans, mice, and carp. Genomic DNA from 14 of these isolates was then hybridized against DNA from an M. avium reference strain, with a custom microarray containing virulence genes of mycobacteria and a selection of representative genes from metabolic pathways. The strains of EM had different abilities to grow within the three types of cell lines, which grouped largely according to the host from which they were isolated. Genes identified as being putatively absent in some of the strains included those with response regulatory functions, cell wall compositions, and fatty acid metabolisms as well as a recently identified pathogenicity island important to macrophage uptake. Further understanding of the role these genes play in host specificity and pathogenicity will be important to gain insight into the zoonotic potential of certain EM as well as their mechanisms of virulence.