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Mol Microbiol. 2004 Sep;53(5):1437-49.

Repression of the RcsC-YojN-RcsB phosphorelay by the IgaA protein is a requisite for Salmonella virulence.

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Departamento de Biotecnología Microbiana, Centro Nacional de Biotecnología-Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Campus de Cantoblanco, 28049 Madrid, Spain.


Bacterial pathogenesis relies on regulators that activate virulence genes. Some of them act, in addition, as repressors of specific genes. Intracellular-growth-attenuator-A (IgaA) is a Salmonella enterica membrane protein that prevents overactivation of the RcsC-YojN-RcsB regulatory system. This negative control is critical for growth because disruption of the igaA gene is only possible in rcsC, yojN or rcsB strains. In this work, we examined the contribution of this regulatory circuit to virulence. Viable igaA point mutant alleles were isolated and characterized. These alleles encode IgaA variants leading to different levels of activation of the RcsC-YojN-RcsB system. IgaA-mediated repression of the RcsB-YojN-RcsC system occurred at the post-translational level, as shown by chromosomal epitope tagging of the rcsC, yojN and rcsB genes. The activity of the RcsC-YojN-RcsB system, monitored with the product of a tagged gmd-3xFLAG gene (positively regulated by RcsC-YojN-RcsB), was totally abolished by wild-type bacteria in mouse target organs. Such tight repression occurred only in vivo and was mediated by IgaA. Shutdown of the RcsC-YojN-RcsB system is a requisite for Salmonella virulence since all igaA point mutant strains were highly attenuated. The degree of attenuation correlated to that of the activation status of RcsC-YojN-RcsB. In some cases, the attenuation recorded was unprecedented, with competitive index (CI) values as low as 10(-6). Strikingly, IgaA is a protein absolutely dispensable for virulence in mutant strains having a non-functional RcsC-YojN-RcsB system. To our knowledge, IgaA exemplifies the first protein that contributes to virulence by exclusively acting as a negative regulator upon host colonization.

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