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J Bacteriol. 1997 Sep;179(18):5777-82.

The modified nucleoside 2-methylthio-N6-isopentenyladenosine in tRNA of Shigella flexneri is required for expression of virulence genes.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, Umeå University, Sweden.


The virulence of the human pathogen Shigella flexneri is dependent on both chromosome- and large-virulence-plasmid-encoded genes. A kanamycin resistance cassette mutation in the miaA gene (miaA::Km Sma), which encodes the tRNA N6-isopentyladenosine (i6A37) synthetase and is involved in the first step of the synthesis of the modified nucleoside 2-methylthio-N6-isopentenyladenosine (ms2i6A), was transferred to the chromosome of S. flexneri 2a by phage P1 transduction. In the wild-type bacterium, ms2i6A37 is present in position 37 (next to and 3' of the anticodon) in a subset of tRNA species-reading codons starting with U (except tRNA(Ser) species SerI and SerV). The miaA::Km Sma mutant of S. flexneri accordingly lacked ms2i6A37 in its tRNA. In addition, the mutant strains showed reduced expression of the virulence-related genes ipaB, ipaC, ipaD, virG, and virF, accounting for sixfold-reduced contact hemolytic activity and a delayed response in the focus plaque assay. A cloned sequence resulting from PCR amplification of the wild-type Shigella chromosome and exhibiting 99% homology with the nucleotide sequence of the Escherichia coli miaA gene complemented the virulence-associated phenotypes as well as the level of the modified nucleoside ms2i6A in the tRNA of the miaA mutants. In the miaA mutant, the level of the virulence-associated protein VirF was reduced 10-fold compared with the wild type. However, the levels of virF mRNA were identical in the mutant and in the wild type. These findings suggest that a posttranscriptional mechanism influenced by the presence of the modified nucleoside ms2i6A in the tRNA is involved in the expression of the virF gene. The role of the miaA gene in the virulence of other Shigella species and in enteroinvasive E. coli was further generalized.

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