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PLoS Genet. 2009 Dec;5(12):e1000779. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1000779. Epub 2009 Dec 18.

Epigenetic control of virulence gene expression in Pseudomonas aeruginosa by a LysR-type transcription regulator.

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1
Division of Infectious Diseases, Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Abstract

Phenotypic variation within an isogenic bacterial population is thought to ensure the survival of a subset of cells in adverse conditions. The opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa variably expresses several phenotypes, including antibiotic resistance, biofilm formation, and the production of CupA fimbriae. Here we describe a previously unidentified bistable switch in P. aeruginosa. This switch controls the expression of a diverse set of genes, including aprA, which encodes the secreted virulence factor alkaline protease. We present evidence that bistable expression of PA2432, herein named bexR (bistable expression regulator), which encodes a LysR-type transcription regulator, controls this switch. In particular, using DNA microarrays, quantitative RT-PCR analysis, chromatin immunoprecipitation, and reporter gene fusions, we identify genes directly under the control of BexR and show that these genes are bistably expressed. Furthermore, we show that bexR is itself bistably expressed and positively autoregulated. Finally, using single-cell analyses of a GFP reporter fusion, we present evidence that positive autoregulation of bexR is necessary for bistable expression of the BexR regulon. Our findings suggest that a positive feedback loop involving a LysR-type transcription regulator serves as the basis for an epigenetic switch that controls virulence gene expression in P. aeruginosa.

PMID:
20041030
PMCID:
PMC2796861
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pgen.1000779
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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