Ecological fitness and strategies of adaptation of Bartonella species to their hosts and vectors

Bruno B Chomel, Henri Jean Boulouis, Edward B. Breitschwerdt, Rickie W. Kasten, Muriel Vayssier-Taussat, Richard J. Birtles, Jane E. Koehler, Christoph Dehio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

183 Scopus citations


Bartonella spp. are facultative intracellular bacteria that cause characteristic hostrestricted hemotropic infections in mammals and are typically transmitted by blood-sucking arthropods. In the mammalian reservoir, these bacteria initially infect a yet unrecognized primary niche, which seeds organisms into the blood stream leading to the establishment of a long-lasting intra-erythrocytic bacteremia as the hall-mark of infection. Bacterial type IV secretion systems, which are supra-molecular transporters ancestrally related to bacterial conjugation systems, represent crucial pathogenicity factors that have contributed to a radial expansion of the Bartonella lineage in nature by facilitating adaptation to unique mammalian hosts. On the molecular level, the type IV secretion system VirB/VirD4 is known to translocate a cocktail of different effector proteins into host cells, which subvert multiple cellular functions to the benefit of the infecting pathogen. Furthermore, bacterial adhesins mediate a critical, early step in the pathogenesis of the bartonellae by binding to extracellular matrix components of host cells, which leads to firm bacterial adhesion to the cell surface as a prerequisite for the efficient translocation of type IV secretion effector proteins. The beststudied adhesins in bartonellae are the orthologous trimeric autotransporter adhesins, BadA in Bartonella henselae and the Vomp family in Bartonella quintana. Genetic diversity and strain variability also appear to enhance the ability of bartonellae to invade not only specific reservoir hosts, but also accidental hosts, as shown for B. henselae. Bartonellae have been identified in many different blood-sucking arthropods, in which they are typically found to cause extracellular infections of the mid-gut epithelium. Adaptation to specific vectors and reservoirs seems to be a common strategy of bartonellae for transmission and host diversity. However, knowledge regarding arthropod specificity/restriction, the mode of transmission, and the bacterial factors involved in arthropod infection and transmission is still limited.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number29
JournalVeterinary Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2009


  • Bartonella
  • Ecological fitness
  • Host adaptation
  • Pathogenesis
  • Vector

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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