Optimizing the restored chemotactic behavior of anticancer agent Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium VNP20009
Bacteria, including strains of Salmonella, have been researched and applied as therapeutic cancer agents for centuries. Salmonella are particularly of interest due to their facultative anaerobic nature, facilitating colonization of differentially oxygenated tumor regions. Additionally, Salmonella can be manipulated with relative ease, resulting in the ability to attenuate the pathogen or engineer vectors for drug delivery. It was recently discovered that the anti-cancer Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium strain VNP20009 is lacking in chemotactic ability, due to a non-synonymous single nucleotide polymorphism in cheY. Replacing the mutated copy of cheY with the wild-type sequence restored chemotaxis to 70% of the parental strain. We aimed to investigate further if chemotaxis of VNP20009 can be optimized. By restoring the gene msbB in VNP20009 cheY+, which confers attenuation by lipid A modification, we observed a 9% increase in swimming speed, 13% increase in swim plate performance, 19% increase in microfluidic device partitioning towards the attractant at the optimum concentration gradient, and mitigation of a non-motile cell subpopulation. We conclude that chemotaxis can be enhanced further but at the cost of changing one defining characteristic of VNP20009. A less compromised strain might be needed to employ for investigating bacterial chemotaxis in tumor interactions.