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Microbiology. 2008 Nov;154(Pt 11):3579-89. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.2008/021063-0.

Functional impact of mutational activation on the Listeria monocytogenes central virulence regulator PrfA.

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Program in Pathobiology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA.


The transcriptional activator PrfA is required for the expression of virulence factors necessary for Listeria monocytogenes pathogenesis. PrfA is believed to become activated following L. monocytogenes entry into the cytosol of infected host cells, resulting in the induction of target genes whose products are required for bacterial intracellular growth and cell-to-cell spread. Several mutations have been identified that appear to lock PrfA into its highly activated cytosolic form (known as prfA* mutations). In this study PrfA and five PrfA* mutant proteins exhibiting differing degrees of activity were purified and analysed to define the influences of the mutations on distinct aspects of PrfA activity. Based on limited proteolytic digestion, conformational changes were detected for the PrfA* mutant proteins in comparison to wild-type PrfA. For all but one mutant (PrfA Y63C), the DNA binding affinity as measured by electophoretic mobility shift assay appeared to directly correlate with levels of PrfA mutational activation, such that the high-activity mutants exhibited the largest increases in DNA binding affinity and moderately activated mutants exhibited more moderate increases. Surprisingly, the ability of PrfA and PrfA* mutants to form dimers in solution appeared to inversely correlate with levels of PrfA-dependent gene expression. Based on comparisons of protein activity and structural similarities with PrfA family members Crp and CooA, the prfA* mutations modify distinct aspects of PrfA activity that include DNA binding and protein-protein interactions.

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