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Visualizing pneumococcal infections in the lungs of live mice using bioluminescent Streptococcus pneumoniae transformed with a novel gram-positive lux transposon.


Francis, K.P., Yu, J., Bellinger-Kawahara, C., Joh, D., Hawkinson, M.J., Xiao, G., Purchio, T.F., Caparon, M.G., Lipsitch, M. and Contag, P.R.

Infection and Immunity, 69(5), 3350-3358 (2001).

Animal studies with Streptococcus pneumoniae have provided valuable models for drug development, In order to monitor long-term pneumococcal infections noninvasively in living mice, a novel gram-positive lux transposon cassette, Tn4001 IuxABCDE Km(r), that allows random integration of lux genes onto the. bacterial chromosome was constructed. The cassette was designed so that the luxABCDE and kanamycin resistance genes were linked to form a single promoterless operon. Bioluminescence and kanamycin resistance only occur in a bacterial cell if this operon has transposed downstream of a promoter on the bacterium's chromosome, S. pneumoniae D39 was transformed with plasmid pAUL-A Tn4001 luxABCDE Km(r), and a number of highly bioluminescent colonies were recovered, Genomic DNA from the brightest D39 strain was used to transform a number of clinical S, pneumoniae isolates, and several of these strains were tested in animal models, including a pneumococcal lung infection model. Strong bioluminescent signals were seen in the lungs of the animals containing these pneumococci, allowing the course and antibiotic treatment of the infections to be readily monitored in real time in the living animals. Recovery of the bacteria from the animals showed that the bioluminescent signal corresponded to the number of CFU and that the lux construct was highly stable even after several days in vivo. We believe that this lux transposon mill greatly expand the ability to evaluate drug efficacy against gram-positive bacteria in living animals using bioluminescence.