An invasive and low virulent Edwardsiella tarda esrB mutant promising as live attenuated vaccine in aquaculture.
Edwardsiella tarda is a leading fish pathogen haunting worldwide aquaculture industry. In E. tarda, two-component system EsrA-EsrB positively regulates type III and VI secretion systems (T3SS and T6SS) and negatively regulates hemolysin EthA, which has been demonstrated to be essential for the invasion processes in fish. In order to develop a live attenuated vaccine (LAV) with high invasiveness to be practically and economically used as immersion-administered vaccine in aquaculture, here, we generated a random mutation library of esrB sequences by error-prone PCR and introduced them into the E. tarda esrB deletion mutant. The mutant YWZ47 with significantly increased hemolytic activity and low T3SS and T6SS secretion was screened. Phenotypes including extracellular protein profiles, invasion in macrophages, lethality toward fish, and infection kinetics were investigated in the wild-type strain EIB202 and the mutants ΔesrB, ΔT3SS, ΔT6SS, ΔT3SS/ΔT6SS, and YWZ47. Compared to the documented LAV strain ΔesrB, YWZ47 showed higher invasive capability and low in vivo virulence toward fish. Significantly higher relative percent survival (RPS) could be generated in turbot (Scophthalmus maximus) against the challenge of the wild-type EIB202 when inoculated through immersion route, and the RPS was comparable with that of ΔesrB through intraperitoneal (i.p.) injection inoculation. Two mutated points, K167 M and H197 L, were found by sequence analysis of EsrBYWZ47 variant. These structural modifications underpin the variations in the regulatory functions of the mutant and wild-type EsrB. This study promoted understanding of virulence regulation by EsrB in E. tarda and presented a promising candidate of invasive attenuated vaccine used in aquaculture industries.