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FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2005 Feb 1;243(1):189-96.

Hyperadherence of an hha mutant of Escherichia coli O157:H7 is correlated with enhanced expression of LEE-encoded adherence genes.

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Pre-Harvest Food Safety and Enteric Diseases Research Unit, National Animal Disease Center, USDA, Agricultural Research Service, 2300, Dayton Road, Ames, IA 50010, USA.


Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) O157:H7 virulence factors, specifically those conferring intimate adherence to and formation of attaching and effacing lesions (A/E) on host cells, are encoded by a horizontally acquired locus of enterocyte effacement (LEE). Expression of several LEE-encoded genes, which are organized into operons LEE1 through LEE5, is under the positive regulation of ler, the first gene in the LEE1 operon. We have recently demonstrated that EHEC O157:H7 lacking hha exhibited greater than a 10-fold increase in ler expression and that the repression of ler results from the binding of Hha to the ler promoter. In this report, we show that an hha mutant of EHEC O157:H7 exhibited increased adherence to Hep-2 cells, had increased transcriptional activities of LEE1, LEE2, LEE3, and LEE5 as determined by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction assays, and expressed LEE5::lac transcriptional fusion at levels that were several-fold higher than that expressed by the parental hha+ strain. These results demonstrate that hha is an important regulatory component of the cascade that governs the expression of LEE operons and the resulting ability of EHEC O157:H7 to intimately adhere to host cells.

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