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Infect Immun. 2012 Feb;80(2):518-28. doi: 10.1128/IAI.05851-11. Epub 2011 Dec 5.

Effects of amino acid supplementation on porin expression and ToxR levels in Vibrio cholerae.

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  • 1Section of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, and Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, USA. armey@mail.utexas.edu


Vibrio cholerae responds to environmental changes by altering the protein composition of its outer membrane. In rich medium, V. cholerae expresses almost exclusively the outer membrane porin OmpU, whereas in minimal medium, OmpT is the dominant porin. The supplementation of a minimal medium with a mixture of asparagine, arginine, glutamic acid, and serine (NRES) promotes OmpU production and OmpT repression at levels similar to those seen with rich media. Here we show that the altered Omp profile is not due to an increase in the growth rate in the presence of supplemental amino acids but requires the addition of specific amino acids. The effects of the NRES mix on Omp production were mediated by ToxR, a known regulator of omp gene expression. No changes in the Omp profile were detected in a toxR mutant. Supplementation with the NRES mix resulted in significantly higher levels of ToxR, and the elevated ToxR levels were sufficient to cause a switch in Omp synthesis. The increase in the level of the ToxR protein correlated with an increase in toxR mRNA levels and was observed only when toxR was expressed from its native promoter. ToxS, which is required for ToxR activity, was necessary for NRES-mediated omp gene regulation but not for the increase in ToxR levels. The growth of V. cholerae in the presence of bile acids also resulted in Omp switching, and this required ToxR. However, unlike the NRES mix, bile acids did not increase either ToxR protein or toxR mRNA levels, suggesting a different mechanism of omp gene regulation by bile than that by amino acids.

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