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J Bacteriol. 2008 May;190(9):3274-82. doi: 10.1128/JB.01915-07. Epub 2008 Feb 29.

Putative quorum-sensing regulator BlxR of Brucella melitensis regulates virulence factors including the type IV secretion system and flagella.

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Department of Pathobiological Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1656 Linden Dr., Madison, WI 53706, USA.


Brucella melitensis is an intracellular pathogen that establishes a replicative niche within macrophages. While the intracellular lifestyle of Brucella is poorly understood and few virulence factors have been identified, components of a quorum-sensing pathway in Brucella have recently been identified. The LuxR-type regulatory protein, VjbR, and an N-acylhomoserine lactone signaling molecule are both involved in regulating expression of the virB-encoded type IV secretion system. We have identified a second LuxR-type regulatory protein (BlxR) in Brucella. Microarray analysis of a blxR mutant suggests that BlxR regulates the expression of a number of genes, including those encoding the type IV secretion system and flagella. Confirming these results, deletion of blxR in B. melitensis reduced the transcriptional activities of promoters for the virB operon, flagellar genes, and another putative virulence factor gene, bopA. Furthermore, our data suggested that both BlxR and VjbR are positively autoregulated and cross-regulate the expression of each other. The blxR deletion strain exhibited reduced growth in macrophages, similar to that observed for a vjbR deletion strain. However, unlike the vjbR deletion, the blxR deletion did not fully attenuate virulence in mice. More strikingly, bioluminescent imaging revealed that dissemination of the blxR mutant was similar to that of wild-type B. melitensis, while the vjbR mutant was defective for systemic spread in IRF-1(-/-) mice, suggesting that these regulators are not functionally redundant but that they converge in a common pathway regulating bacterial processes.

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