Burkholderia pseudomallei is an intracellular pathogen and the causative agent of melioidosis, a life-threatening disease of humans. Within host cells, superoxide is an important mediator of pathogen killing. In this study, we have identified the B. pseudomallei K96243 sodC gene, shown that it has superoxide dismutase activity, and constructed an allelic deletion mutant of this gene. Compared with the wild-type, the mutant was more sensitive to killing by extracellular superoxide, but not to superoxide generated intracellularly. The sodC mutant showed a markedly decreased survival in J774A.1 mouse macrophages, and reduced numbers of bacteria were recovered from human polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMNs) when compared with the wild-type. The numbers of wild-type or mutant bacteria recovered from human diabetic neutrophils were significantly lower than from normal human neutrophils. The sodC mutant was attenuated in BALB/c mice. Our results indicate that SodC plays a key role in the virulence of B. pseudomallei, but that diabetics are not more susceptible to infection because of a reduced ability of PMNs to kill by superoxide.
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