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Microbiology. 2004 Jul;150(Pt 7):2357-571.

Positive effects of multiple pch genes on expression of the locus of enterocyte effacement genes and adherence of enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli O157 : H7 to HEp-2 cells.

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Department of Bacteriology, National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Toyama 1-23-1, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 162-8640, Japan.


Enteropathogenic and enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EPEC and EHEC, respectively) genomes contain a pathogenicity island, termed the locus of enterocyte effacement (LEE), which encodes genes involved in the formation of attaching and effacing lesions on epithelial cells. To elucidate the regulatory mechanism of the LEE genes in EHEC, an EHEC O157 genomic library was screened for clones which modulated expression of the LEE genes. From more than 5000 clones, a DNA fragment was obtained containing a perC homologue as a positive regulator for the LEE genes. In EPEC, perC is known to be part of the per operon, along with perA and perB, located on the EPEC adherence factor plasmid, which is not found in EHEC. However, the complete genome sequence of EHEC O157 Sakai strain reveals that there are five perC-like sequences, but no perA and perB, on the chromosome. These five perC homologues were characterized, and it was found that three of the homologues (renamed perC homologue pchA, pchB and pchC) encoded 104 aa proteins, and when expressed on a multicopy plasmid enhanced the expression of LEE genes. In contrast, perC homologues encoding proteins of 89 and 90 aa, renamed pchD and pchE, respectively, had no significant effect. Deletion mutants of the pch genes were constructed, and the effect on the expression of LEE-encoded type III effector proteins, such as EspA, B and D, and adhesion phenotype to HEp-2 cells was examined. Deletion of pchA or pchB, but not pchC, decreased the expression of Esp proteins and adhesion to HEp-2 cells. Such effects were more apparent with mutants carrying double deletions of pchA/pchB or pchA/pchC, suggesting that pchA/B/C are all necessary for full expression of the LEE genes and adhesion to HEp-2 cells. Further study demonstrated that the positive effect of pchA/B/C was caused by enhanced transcription of the LEE-encoded regulatory gene, ler. Introduction of a multicopy plasmid carrying each pchA/B/C gene significantly induced microcolony formation by EHEC O157 on HEp-2 cells. These results suggest that the pchABC genes are necessary for full virulence of EHEC O157.

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