Vibrio splendidus persister cells induced by host coelomic fluids show a similar phenotype to antibiotic-induced counterparts

Yanan Li, Thomas K. Wood, Weiwei Zhang, Chenghua Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Persister cells are dormant variants of regular cells that are multidrug tolerant and have heterogeneous phenotypes; these cells are a potential threat to hosts because they can escape the immune system or antibiotic treatments and reconstitute infectious. Skin ulcer syndrome (SUS) frequently occurs in the sea cucumber (Apostichopus japonicus), and Vibrio splendidus is one of the main bacterial pathogens of SUS. This study found that the active cells of V. splendidus became persister cells more readily in the presence of A. japonicus coelomic fluids. We showed that the A. japonicus coelomic fluids plus antibiotics induce 100-fold more persister cells in V. splendidus compared with antibiotics alone via nine sets of experiments including assays for antibiotic resistance, metabolic activity, and single-cell phenotypes. Furthermore, the coelomic fluids-induced persister cells showed similar phenotypes as the antibiotic-induced persister cells. Further investigation showed that guanosine pentaphosphate/tetraphosphate (henceforth ppGpp) and SOS response pathway involved in the formation of persister cells as determined using real-time RT-PCR. In addition, single-cell observations showed that, similar to the antibiotic-induced V. splendidus persister cells, the coelomic fluids-induced persister cells have five resuscitation phenotypes: no growth, expansion, elongation, elongation and then division, and elongation followed by death/disappearance. In addition, dark foci formed in the majority of persister cells for both the antibiotic-induced and coelomic fluids-induced persister cells. Our results highlight that the pathogen V. splendidus might escape from the host immune system by entering the persister state during the process of infection due to exposure to coelomic fluids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5605-5620
Number of pages16
JournalEnvironmental microbiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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