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Infect Immun. 2004 Mar;72(3):1383-90.

Effect of metabolic imbalance on expression of type III secretion genes in Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

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Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


The type III secretion system is a dedicated machinery used by many pathogens to deliver toxins directly into the cytoplasm of a target cell. Expression and secretion of the type III effectors are triggered by cell contact. In Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Yersinia spp., expression can be triggered in vitro by removing calcium from the medium. The mechanism underlying either mode of regulation is unclear. Here we characterize a transposon insertion mutant of P. aeruginosa PAO1 that displays a marked defect in cytotoxicity. The insertion is located upstream of several genes involved in histidine utilization and impedes the ability of PAO1 to intoxicate eukaryotic cells effectively in a type III-dependent fashion. This inhibition depends on the presence of histidine in the medium and appears to depend on the excessive uptake and catabolism of histidine. The defect in cytotoxicity is mirrored by a decrease in exoS expression. Other parameters such as growth or piliation are unaffected. The cytotoxicity defect is partially complemented by an insertion mutation in cbrA that also causes overexpression of cbrB. The cbrAB two-component system has been implicated in sensing and responding to a carbon-nitrogen imbalance. Taken together, these results suggest that the metabolic state of the cell influences expression of the type III regulon.

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