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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Apr 1988; 85(8): 2820–2824.
PMCID: PMC280091

Identification of a chromosomal gene controlling temperature-regulated expression of Shigella virulence.


Genes required for the full expression of Shigella virulence are on both the chromosome and a large virulence-associated plasmid. Expression of one or more virulence (vir) genes is temperature-regulated, wild-type strains being virulent (invasive) when grown at 37 degrees C but phenotypically avirulent (noninvasive) at 30 degrees C. A vir::lac operon fusion located on the virulence plasmid, which brings the lac genes under control of a temperature-regulated vir gene promoter, was used to select regulatory mutants constitutive for the Lac+ phenotype at the nonpermissive temperature. A transposon Tn10-induced mutant that was Lac+ at 30 degrees C and 37 degrees C was isolated, and the Tn10 insertion was transduced into a wild-type strain. The transductants all simultaneously became deregulated for virulence and invaded HeLa cells equally well at 30 degrees C and 37 degrees C. Other virulence-associated phenotypes were also deregulated and expressed at 30 degrees C. Southern hybridization with a probe for Tn10 determined the insertion to be on the chromosome. Fine mapping by transduction with phage P1L4 positioned the mutation between the galU and trp genes. A cosmid cloned fragment of Shigella chromosomal DNA containing the region around galU was used in complementation studies and showed that the closely linked regulatory gene was able to complement, in trans, the Tn10-induced mutation. We propose that this mutation defines a regulatory gene, virR, and that insertion of Tn10 into this gene inactivates a repressor that normally blocks expression of vir genes at 30 degrees C.

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