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FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2008 May;32(3):461-73. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6976.2008.00101.x. Epub 2008 Jan 29.

The phosphate regulon and bacterial virulence: a regulatory network connecting phosphate homeostasis and pathogenesis.

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Groupe de Recherche sur les Maladies Infectieuses du Porc, Faculté de médecine vétérinaire, Université de Montréal, Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec, Canada.


Bacterial pathogens regulate virulence factor gene expression coordinately in response to environmental stimuli, including nutrient starvation. The phosphate (Pho) regulon plays a key role in phosphate homeostasis. It is controlled by the PhoR/PhoB two-component regulatory system. PhoR is an integral membrane signaling histidine kinase that, through an interaction with the ABC-type phosphate-specific transport (Pst) system and a protein called PhoU, somehow senses environmental inorganic phosphate (P(i)) levels. Under conditions of P(i) limitation (or in the absence of a Pst component or PhoU), PhoR activates its partner response regulator PhoB by phosphorylation, which, in turn, up- or down-regulates target genes. Single-cell profiling of PhoB activation has shown recently that Pho regulon gene expression exhibits a stochastic, "all-or-none" behavior. Recent studies have also shown that the Pho regulon plays a role in the virulence of several bacteria. Here, we present a comprehensive overview of the role of the Pho regulon in bacterial virulence. The Pho regulon is clearly not a simple regulatory circuit for controlling phosphate homeostasis; it is part of a complex network important for both bacterial virulence and stress response.

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