Fluorescence Activated Cell Sorting of Rickettsia prowazekii-Infected Host Cells Based on Bacterial Burden and Early Detection of Fluorescent Rickettsial Transformants

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PloS one


Rickettsia prowazekii, the causative agent of epidemic typhus, is an obligate intracellular bacterium that replicates only within the cytosol of a eukaryotic host cell. Despite the barriers to genetic manipulation that such a life style creates, rickettsial mutants have been generated by transposon insertion as well as by homologous recombination mechanisms. However, progress is hampered by the length of time required to identify and isolate R. prowazekii transformants. To reduce the time required and variability associated with propagation and harvesting of rickettsiae for each transformation experiment, characterized frozen stocks were used to generate electrocompetent rickettsiae. Transformation experiments employing these rickettsiae established that fluorescent rickettsial populations could be identified using a fluorescence activated cell sorter within one week following electroporation. Early detection was improved with increasing amounts of transforming DNA. In addition, we demonstrate that heterogeneous populations of rickettsiae-infected cells can be sorted into distinct sub-populations based on the number of rickettsiae per cell. Together our data suggest the combination of fluorescent reporters and cell sorting represent an important technical advance that will facilitate isolation of distinct R. prowazekii mutants and allow for closer examination of the effects of infection on host cells at various infectious burdens.

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