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J Bacteriol. 2005 Jul;187(14):4830-43.

Specific control of endogenous cCF10 pheromone by a conserved domain of the pCF10-encoded regulatory protein PrgY in Enterococcus faecalis.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, 55455, USA.


Conjugative transfer of Enterococcus faecalis plasmid pCF10 is induced by the heptapeptide pheromone cCF10. cCF10 produced by plasmid-free recipient cells is detected by pCF10-containing donor cells, which respond by induction of plasmid-encoded transfer functions. The pCF10-encoded membrane protein PrgY is essential to prevent donor cells from responding to endogenously produced pheromone while maintaining the ability to respond to pheromone from an exogenous source; this function has not been identified in any nonenterococcal prokaryotic signaling system. PrgY specifically inhibited endogenous cCF10 and cPD1 (a pheromone that induces transfer of closely related plasmid pPD1) but not cAD1 (which is specific for less-related plasmid pAD1). Ectopic expression of PrgY in plasmid-free recipient cells reduced pheromone activity in culture supernatants and reduced the ability of these cells to acquire pCF10 by conjugation but did not have any effect on the interaction of these cells with exogenously supplied cCF10. The cloned prgY gene could complement a pCF10 prgY null mutation, and complementation was used to identify point mutations impairing PrgY function. Such mutations also abolished the inhibitory effect of PrgY expression in recipients on pheromone production and on acquisition of pCF10. Most randomly generated point mutations identified in the genetic screen mapped to a predicted extracellular domain in the N terminus of PrgY that is conserved in a newly identified family of related proteins from disparate species including Borrelia burgdorferi, Archaeoglobus fulgidus, Arabidopsis thaliana, and Homo sapiens. The combined genetic and physiological data suggest that PrgY may sequester or inactivate cCF10 as it is released from the membrane.

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