Evidence for association of Vibrio echinoideorum with tissue necrosis on test of the green sea urchin Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis
“Sea urchin lesion syndrome” is known as sea urchin disease with the progressive development of necrotic epidermal tissue and loss of external organs, including appendages on the outer body surface. Recently, a novel strain, Vibrio echinoideorum has been isolated from the lesion of green sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis), an economically important mariculture species in Norway. V. echinoideorum has not been reported elsewhere in association with green sea urchin lesion syndrome. Therefore, in this study, an immersion based bacterial challenge experiment was performed to expose sea urchins (wounded and non-wounded) to V. echinoideorum, thereby mimicking a nearly natural host–pathogen interaction under controlled conditions. This infection experiment demonstrated that only the injured sea urchins developed the lesion to a significant degree when exposed to V. echinoideorum. Pure cultures of the employed bacterial strain were recovered from the infected animals and its identity was confirmed by the MALDI-TOF MS spectra profiling. Additionally, the hemolytic phenotype of V. echinoideorum substantiated its virulence potential towards the host, and this was also supported by the cytolytic effect on red spherule cells of sea urchin. Furthermore, the genome sequence of V. echinoideorum was assumed to encode potential virulence genes and were subjected to in silico comparison with the established virulence factors of Vibrio vulnificus and Vibrio tasmaniensis. This comparative virulence profile provided novel insights about virulence genes and their putative functions related to chemotaxis, adherence, invasion, evasion of the host immune system, and damage of host tissue and cells. Thus, it supports the pathogenicity of V. echinoideorum. In conclusion, the interaction of V. echinoideorum with injured sea urchin facilitates the development of lesion syndrome and therefore, revealing its potentiality as an opportunistic pathogen.