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Abstract

Renibacterium salmoninarum, a slow-growing facultative intracellular pathogen, is the causative agent of bacterial kidney disease, a chronic, progressive and granulomatous infection that threatens farmed and wild salmonids worldwide. Pathogenic R. salmoninarum colonizes tissues and invades the host through cell surface-associated and secreted proteins. While correlations between iron acquisition genes and virulence have been demonstrated in vitro, these mechanisms have not undergone proteomic characterization. The present study applied a proteomic approach to elucidate the differences between the virulent Chilean R. salmoninarum H-2 strain and the type strain ATCC 33209T. Analyses were conducted under normal (control) and iron-limited conditions (DIP) emulating the host environment. Interestingly, strain H-2 apparently responded better to the iron-limited condition—for example, only this strain presented a significantly enriched iron ion homeostasis pathway. Furthermore, key virulence factors related to an iron-limited environment were more abundant in strain H-2. Importantly, the lack of iron favoured the expression of the 57-kDa protein in strain H-2, the principal virulence factor for R. salmoninarum. Our findings can be employed in the design and development of treatments targeted to iron uptake mechanisms (e.g. siderophore synthesis or haem uptake), which represents a promising therapeutic approach for treating this persistent fastidious bacterium.