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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Mar 4;100(5):2801-6. Epub 2003 Feb 24.

ToxR regulon of Vibrio cholerae and its expression in vibrios shed by cholera patients.

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Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Harvard Medical School, 200 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Toxigenic Vibrio cholerae cause cholera, a severe diarrheal disease responsible for significant morbidity and mortality worldwide. Two determinants, cholera enterotoxin (CT) and toxin coregulated pilus (TCP) are critical factors responsible for this organism's virulence. The genes for these virulence determinants belong to a network of genes (the ToxR regulon) whose expression is modulated by transcriptional regulators encoded by the toxRS, tcpPH, and toxT genes. To define the ToxR regulon more fully, mutants defective in these regulatory genes were transcriptionally profiled by using V. cholerae genomic microarrays. This study identified 13 genes that were transcriptionally repressed by the toxT mutation (all involved in CT and TCP biogenesis), and 27 and 60 genes that were transcriptionally repressed by the tcpPH and toxRS mutations, respectively. During the course of this analysis, we validated the use of a genomic DNA-based reference sample as a means to standardize and normalize data obtained in different microarray experiments. This method allowed the accurate transcriptional profiling of V. cholerae cells present in stools from cholera patients and the comparison of these profiles to those of wild-type and mutant strains of V. cholerae grown under optimal conditions for CT and TCP expression. Our results suggest that vibrios present in cholera stools carry transcripts for these two virulence determinants, albeit at relatively low levels compared with optimal in vitro conditions. The transcriptional profile of vibrios present in cholera stools also suggests that the bacteria experienced conditions of anaerobiosis, iron limitation, and nutrient deprivation within the human gastrointestinal tract.

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