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J Bacteriol. 1991 Aug;173(16):4994-5009.

Analysis of virC, an operon involved in the secretion of Yop proteins by Yersinia enterocolitica.

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  • 1Microbial Pathogenesis Unit, Universit√© Catholique de Louvain, Brussels, Belgium.


Upon incubation at 37 degrees C in the absence of Ca2+ ions, pathogenic yersiniae release large amounts of pYV plasmid-encoded proteins called Yops that are involved in pathogenesis. Yersinia enterocolitica also expresses an outer membrane protein that is considered an adhesin and called YadA (previously called P1 or YopA). The production of Yops is coordinately regulated by a 20-kb region of the plasmid referred to as the Ca2+ dependence region and containing at least four loci called virA, virB, virC, and virF. The virF gene encodes a key transcriptional activator of yop genes. We have shown here that virF is also required for transcription of yadA and that virB is necessary for full transcription of the yop and yadA genes. In contrast, mutations in genes virA and virC had only a weak influence on the transcription of yop and yadA genes. These mutations did not affect the production of YadA but they completely inhibited the translocation of Yops from the intracellular compartment to the extracellular milieu. We inferred from these data that virA and virC are involved in the specific transport of Yops. We analyzed the 8.5-kb virC region and showed that it is most probably a single operon containing 13 open reading frames called yscA to yscM (for Yop secretion). Protein YscC has a putative signal sequence and shares significant homology with outer membrane proteins involved in the secretion of pullulanase by Klebsiella pneumoniae (PulD) or in the assembly of filamentous bacteriophages (gene IV product). At least the putative products of yscD, yscJ, and yscL were shown to be required for the export of Yops. YscJ turned out to be YlpB, a lipoprotein that we had detected previously. The yscM gene shares homology with yopH, the adjacent gene on the pYV plasmid. Its product does not appear to be necessary for the production of Yops. Transcription of the virC operon was subjected to the same regulation as the yop genes.

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