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Mol Microbiol. 2005 Feb;55(3):839-52.

Degradation of the HilC and HilD regulator proteins by ATP-dependent Lon protease leads to downregulation of Salmonella pathogenicity island 1 gene expression.

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Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Chiba University, Chiba, 263-8522, Japan.


Salmonella pathogenicity island 1 (SPI1) enables infecting Salmonella to cross the small intestinal barrier and to escape phagocytosis by inducing apoptosis. Several environmental signals and transcriptional regulators modulate the expression of hilA, which encodes a protein playing a central role in the regulatory hierarchy of SPI1 gene expression. We have previously shown that Lon, a stress-induced ATP-dependent protease, is a negative regulator of hilA, suggesting that it targets factors required for activating hilA expression. To elucidate the mechanisms by which Lon protease negatively regulates SPI1 transcription, we looked for its substrate proteins. We found that HilC and HilD, which are positive regulators of hilA expression, accumulate in Lon-depleted cells, and that the enhancement of SPI1 expression that occurs in a lon-disrupted mutant is not observed in the lon hilC hilD triple null mutant. Furthermore, we demonstrated that the half-lives of HilC and HilD are, respectively, about 12 times and three times longer in the Lon-depleted mutant, than in the Lon+ cells, suggesting that Lon targets both of HilC and HilD. In view of these findings, we suggest that the regulation of SPI1 expression is negatively controlled through degradation of the HilC and HilD transcriptional regulators by Lon.

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