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Microbiology. 2003 Oct;149(Pt 10):2847-57.

The curli biosynthesis regulator CsgD co-ordinates the expression of both positive and negative determinants for biofilm formation in Escherichia coli.

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Swiss Federal Institute of Environmental Technology (EAWAG), Uberlandstrasse 133, CH-8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland.


Production of curli, extracellular structures important for biofilm formation, is positively regulated by OmpR, which constitutes with the EnvZ protein an osmolarity-sensing two-component regulatory system. The expression of curli is cryptic in most Escherichia coli laboratory strains such as MG1655, due to the lack of csgD expression. The csgD gene encodes a transcription activator of the curli-subunit-encoding csgBA operon. The ompR234 up-mutation can restore csgD expression, resulting in curli production and increased biofilm formation. In this report, it is shown that ompR234-dependent csgD expression, in addition to csgBA activation during stationary phase of growth, stimulates expression of the yaiC gene and negatively regulates at least two other genes, pepD and yagS. The promoter regions of these four genes share a conserved 11 bp sequence (CGGGKGAKNKA), necessary for csgBA and yaiC regulation by CsgD. While at both the csgBA and yaiC promoters the sequence is located upstream of the promoter elements, in both yagS and pepD it overlaps either the putative -10 sequence or the transcription start point, suggesting that CsgD can function as both an activator and a repressor. Adhesion experiments show that csgD-independent expression of both yagS and pepD from a multicopy plasmid negatively affects biofilm formation, which, in contrast, is stimulated by yaiC expression. Thus it is proposed that CsgD stimulates biofilm formation in E. coli by contemporary activation of adhesion positive determinants (the curli-encoding csg operons and the product of the yaiC gene) and repression of negative effectors such as yagS and pepD.

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