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Microbiology. 2004 May;150(Pt 5):1439-1446. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.26853-0.

Unique organization and regulation of the mrx fimbrial operon in Xenorhabdus nematophila.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Wisconsin, PO Box 413, Milwaukee, WI 53301, USA.


Xenorhabdus nematophila, a Gram-negative bacterium belonging to the Proteus clade of the family Enterobacteriaceae, forms a mutualistic association with the soil nematode Steinernema carpocapsae. The nematode invades insects and releases Xenorhabdus into the haemolymph, where it participates in insect killing. To begin to understand the role of fimbriae in the unique life cycle of Xenorhabdus, the organization and expression of the mrx fimbrial operon was analysed. The mrx operon contained only five structural genes (mrxACDGH), making it one of the smallest chaperone-usher fimbrial operons studied to date. Unlike the mrp operon of Proteus mirabilis, a site-specific recombinase was not linked to the mrx operon. The intergenic region between the major fimbrial gene (mrxA) and the usher gene (mrxC) lacked a mrpB-like gene, but contained three tandem inverted repeat sequences located downstream of mrxA. A 940 nt mrxA-containing mRNA was the major transcript produced in cells growing on agar, while an mrx polycistronic mRNA was produced at low levels. A canonical sigma(70) promoter, identified upstream of mrxA, was not subject to promoter inversion. Fimbriae were not produced in an lrp-mutant strain, suggesting that the leucine-responsive regulatory protein, Lrp, plays a role in the regulation of the mrx operon. These findings show that the genetic organization and regulation of the mrx operon is in several respects distinct from other chaperone-usher fimbrial operons.

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