Construction and characterization of an Aeromonas hydrophila multi-gene deletion strain and evaluation of its potential as a live-attenuated vaccine in grass carp
Aeromonas hydrophila is an important pathogen that causes motile Aeromonas septicemia (MAS) in the aquaculture industry. Aerolysin, hemolysin, serine protease and enterotoxins are considered to be the major virulence factors of A. hydrophila. In this study, we constructed a five-gene (aerA, hly, ahp, alt and ast) deletion mutant strain (named Aeromonas hydrophila five-gene deletion strain, AHFGDS) to observe the biological characteristics and detect its potential as a live-attenuated vaccine candidate. AHFGDS displayed highly attenuated and showed increased susceptibility to fish blood and skin mucus killing, while the wild-type strain ZYAH72 was highly virulent. In zebrafish (Danio rerio), AHFGDS showed a 240-fold higher 50% lethal dose (LD50) than that of the wild-type strain. Immunization with AHFGDS by intracelomic injection or immersion routes both provided grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) significant protection against the challenge of the strain ZYAH72 or J-1 and protected the fish organs from serious injury. Further agglutinating antibody titer test supported that AHFGDS could elicit a host-adaptive immune response. These results suggested the potential of AHFGDS to serve as a live-attenuated vaccine to control A. hydrophila infection in aquaculture.