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Mol Microbiol. 2006 Dec;62(5):1251-63. Epub 2006 Oct 25.

Mutations in Mycobacterium tuberculosis Rv0444c, the gene encoding anti-SigK, explain high level expression of MPB70 and MPB83 in Mycobacterium bovis.

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McGill University Health Centre, Montreal, QC, Canada.


It has recently been advanced that Mycobacterium tuberculosis sigma factor K (SigK) positively regulates expression of the antigenic proteins MPB70 and MPB83. As expression of these proteins differs between M. tuberculosis (low) and Mycobacterium bovis (high), this study set out to determine whether M. bovis lacks a functional SigK repressor (anti-SigK). By comparing genes near sigK in M. tuberculosis H37Rv and M. bovis AF2122/97, we observed that Rv0444c, annotated as unknown function, had variable sequence in M. bovis. Analysis of in vitro mpt70/mpt83 expression and Rv0444c sequencing across M. tuberculosis complex (MTC) members revealed that high-level expression was associated with a mutated Rv0444c. Complementation of M. bovis bacillus Calmette-Guerin Russia, a high producer of MPB70/MPB83, with wild-type Rv0444c resulted in a significant decrease in mpb70/mpb83 expression. Conversely, a M. tuberculosis H37Rv mutant which expressed sigK but not Rv0444c manifested the M. bovis phenotype of high-level MPB70/MPB83 expression. Further support that Rv0444c encodes the anti-SigK was obtained by yeast two-hybrid studies, where the N-terminal region of Rv0444c-encoded protein interacted with SigK. Together these findings indicate that Rv0444c encodes the regulator of SigK (RskA) and mutations in this gene explain high-level MPT70/MPT83 expression by certain MTC members.

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