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Mol Microbiol. 2005 May;56(4):1062-77.

Activation of both acfA and acfD transcription by Vibrio cholerae ToxT requires binding to two centrally located DNA sites in an inverted repeat conformation.

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Unit for Laboratory Animal Medicine and Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0614, USA.


The Gram-negative bacterium Vibrio cholerae is the infectious agent responsible for the disease Asiatic cholera. The genes required for V. cholerae virulence, such as those encoding the cholera toxin (CT) and toxin-coregulated pilus (TCP), are controlled by a cascade of transcriptional activators. Ultimately, the direct transcriptional activator of the majority of V. cholerae virulence genes is the AraC/XylS family member ToxT protein, the expression of which is activated by the ToxR and TcpP proteins. Previous studies have identified the DNA sites to which ToxT binds upstream of the ctx operon, encoding CT, and the tcpA operon, encoding, among other products, the major subunit of the TCP. These known ToxT binding sites are seemingly dissimilar in sequence other than being A/T rich. Further results suggested that ctx and tcpA each has a pair of ToxT binding sites arranged in a direct repeat orientation upstream of the core promoter elements. In this work, using both transcriptional lacZ fusions and in vitro copper-phenanthroline footprinting experiments, we have identified the ToxT binding sites between the divergently transcribed acfA and acfD genes, which encode components of the accessory colonization factor required for efficient intestinal colonization by V. cholerae. Our results indicate that ToxT binds to a pair of DNA sites between acfA and acfD in an inverted repeat orientation. Moreover, a mutational analysis of the ToxT binding sites indicates that both binding sites are required by ToxT for transcriptional activation of both acfA and acfD. Using copper-phenanthroline footprinting to assess the occupancy of ToxT on DNA having mutations in one of these binding sites, we found that protection by ToxT of the unaltered binding site was not affected, whereas protection by ToxT of the mutant binding site was significantly reduced in the region of the mutations. The results of further footprinting experiments using DNA templates having +5 bp and +10 bp insertions between the two ToxT binding sites indicate that both binding sites are occupied by ToxT regardless of their positions relative to each other. Based on these results, we propose that ToxT binds independently to two DNA sites between acfA and acfD to activate transcription of both genes.

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