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Microbiology. 2004 Feb;150(Pt 2):321-333. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.26718-0.

Deregulation of Listeria monocytogenes virulence gene expression by two distinct and semi-independent pathways.

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Department of Genetics, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA.
Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, 4 Nickerson St, Seattle, WA 98109, USA.
Department of Pathobiology and Department of Microbiology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


Expression of the major virulence cluster in Listeria monocytogenes is positively regulated by the transcription factor PrfA and is influenced by several environmental factors, including the presence of readily metabolized carbohydrates such as cellobiose and glucose. Although little is understood about the mechanisms through which environmental factors influence expression of the PrfA regulon, evidence for structural and functional similarities of PrfA to the CRP-FNR family of regulatory proteins suggests the possibility that PrfA activity could be modulated by a small molecule ligand. The identity of components of the PrfA-associated regulatory pathway was sought through the isolation of mutants that exhibit high levels of PrfA-controlled gene expression in the presence of cellobiose or glucose. Here are described the properties and preliminary genetic analysis in two different genetic loci, gcr and csr, both unlinked by general transduction to the major virulence cluster. A mutation in gcr deregulates the expression of PrfA-controlled genes in the presence of several repressing sugars and other environmental conditions, a phenotype similar to that of a G145S substitution in PrfA itself. A mutation in the csr locus, within csrA, results in a cellobiose-specific defect in virulence gene regulation. Gene products encoded by the csr locus share homology with proteins involved in the sensing and transport of beta-glucosides in other bacteria. Mutations in both gcr and csr are required for full relief of cellobiose-mediated repression of the PrfA regulon. These results suggest the existence of two semi-independent pathways for cellobiose-mediated repression and further reconcile conflicting reports in previous literature concerning the repressive effects of carbohydrates on virulence gene expression in L. monocytogenes.

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