Salmonella enterica serotype Typhimurium (S. Typhimurium) causes acute gut inflammation by using its virulence factors to invade the intestinal epithelium and survive in mucosal macrophages. The inflammatory response enhances the transmission success of S. Typhimurium by promoting its outgrowth in the gut lumen through unknown mechanisms. Here we show that reactive oxygen species generated during inflammation react with endogenous, luminal sulphur compounds (thiosulphate) to form a new respiratory electron acceptor, tetrathionate. The genes conferring the ability to use tetrathionate as an electron acceptor produce a growth advantage for S. Typhimurium over the competing microbiota in the lumen of the inflamed gut. We conclude that S. Typhimurium virulence factors induce host-driven production of a new electron acceptor that allows the pathogen to use respiration to compete with fermenting gut microbes. Thus the ability to trigger intestinal inflammation is crucial for the biology of this diarrhoeal pathogen.

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We thank H. Chu for providing real-time PCR primers, V. Tolstikov for performing the liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry analysis, M. Xavier for assistance with histopathology and V. Gerriets for technical assistance. Work in A.J.B.’s laboratory is supported by Public Health Service grants AI040124, AI044170, AI073120, AI076246 and AI088122. P.T. was supported by a stipend from the Department of Microbiology, Chiang Mai University, Thailand.

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  1. Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, School of Medicine, University of California, Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, California 95616, USA

    • Sebastian E. Winter
    • , Parameth Thiennimitr
    • , Maria G. Winter
    • , Brian P. Butler
    • , Robert W. Crawford
    • , Joseph M. Russell
    • , Charles L. Bevins
    • , Renée M. Tsolis
    •  & Andreas J. Bäumler
  2. Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine, Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai, Thailand

    • Parameth Thiennimitr
  3. Department of Microbiology, University of California, Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, California 95616, USA

    • Douglas L. Huseby
    •  & John R. Roth
  4. Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843, USA

    • L. Garry Adams


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S.E.W. contributed to the experimental design, constructed bacterial strains and contributed to Figs 1c–e, 2c, d, 3d, e and Supplementary Figs 1a, b, e, f and 3. P.T. contributed to Fig. 1f and Supplementary Fig. 1c, d and assisted with mouse experiments. M.G.W. assisted with mouse experiments and performed cloning experiments. B.P.B. contributed to Figs 1b , 2a, b, 3b, c and Supplementary Fig. 2. D.L.H. constructed bacterial strains. R.W.C. and J.M.R. contributed to Fig. 3a. L.G.A. performed the ligated loop surgery. C.L.B., L.G.A., R.M.T., J.R.R. and A.J.B. provided financial support for the study and contributed to the experimental design. S.E.W. and A.J.B. were responsible for the overall study design and for writing the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Andreas J. Bäumler.

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    Supplementary Information

    This file contains Supplementary Figures 1-3 with legends, Supplementary Methods, Supplementary Tables 1-2 and additional references.

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