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Mol Microbiol. 1999 Dec;34(5):941-52.

Hierarchy in the expression of the locus of enterocyte effacement genes of enteropathogenic Escherichia coli.

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Departments of Molecular Genetics and Biotechnology, The Hebrew University, Faculty of Medicine, POB 12272, Jerusalem 91120, Israel.


Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) elicit changes in host cell morphology and cause actin rearrangement, a phenotype that has commonly been referred to as attaching/effacing (AE) lesions. The ability of EPEC to induce AE lesions is dependent upon a type III protein secretion/translocation system that is encoded by genes clustered in a 35.6 kb DNA segment, named the locus of enterocyte effacement (LEE). We used transcriptional fusions between the green fluorescent protein (gfp) reporter gene and LEE genes rorf2, orf3, orf5, escJ, escV and eae, together with immunoblot analysis with antibodies against Tir, intimin, EspB and EspF, to analyse the genetic regulation of the LEE. The expression of all these LEE genes was strictly dependent upon the presence of a functional integration host factor (IHF). IHF binds specifically upstream from the ler (orf1) promoter and appears to activate expression of ler, orf3, orf5 and rorf2 directly. The ler-encoded Ler protein was involved in activating the expression of escJ, escV, tir, eae, espB and espF. Expression of both IHF and Ler was needed to elicit actin rearrangement associated with AE lesions. In conclusion, IHF directly activates the expression of the ler and rorf2 transcriptional units, and Ler in turn mediates the expression of the other LEE genes.

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