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J Bacteriol. 1996 Aug;178(15):4548-54.

Identification and characterization of phoN-Sf, a gene on the large plasmid of Shigella flexneri 2a encoding a nonspecific phosphatase.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Pharmacy, Meijo University, Nagoya, Japan.


A gene encoding a nonspecific phosphatase, named PhoN-Sf, was identified on the large virulence plasmid (pMYSH6000) of Shigella flexneri 2a YSH6000. The phosphatase activity in YSH6000 was observed under high-phosphate conditions. However, it was found that low-phosphate conditions induced a slightly higher level of activity. The nucleotide sequence of the phoN-Sf region cloned from pMYSH6000 possessing the phoN-Sf gene encoded 249 amino acids with a typical signal sequence at the N terminus. The deduced amino acid sequence of the PhoN-Sf protein revealed significant homology to sequences of nonspecific acid phosphatases of other bacteria, such as Providencia stuartii (PhoN, 83.2%), Morganella morganii (PhoC, 80.6%), Salmonella typhimurium (PhoN, 47.8%), and Zymomonas mobilis (PhoC, 34.8%). The PhoN-Sf protein was purified, and its biochemical properties were characterized. The apparent molecular mass of the protein on sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis was calculated to be 27 kDa. The 20 amino acids at the N terminus corresponded to the 20 amino acid residues following the putative signal sequence of PhoN-Sf protein deduced from the nucleotide sequence. The PhoN-Sf activity had a pH optimum of 6.6, and the optimum temperature was 37 degrees C. The enzymatic activity was inhibited by diisopropyl fluorophosphate, N-bromosuccinimide, or dithiothreitol but not by EDTA. The subcellular localization of the PhoN-Sf protein in YSH6000 revealed that the protein was found predominantly in the periplasm. Examination of Shigella and enteroinvasive Escherichia coli strains for PhoN-Sf production by immunoblotting with the PhoN-specific antibody and for the presence of phoN-Sf DNA by using a phoN-Sf probe indicated that approximately one-half of the strains possessed the phoN-Sf gene on the large plasmid and expressed the PhoN-Sf protein. The Tn5 insertion mutants of YSH6000 possessing phoN-Sf::Tn5 still retained wild-type levels of invasiveness, as well as the subsequent spreading capacity in MK2 epithelial cell monolayers, thus suggesting that the PhoN-Sf activity is not involved in expression of the virulence phenotypes of Shigella strains under in vitro conditions.

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