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Mol Microbiol. 2010 Jun 1;76(5):1095-110. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2010.07145.x. Epub 2010 Apr 14.

The Cpx envelope stress response both facilitates and inhibits elaboration of the enteropathogenic Escherichia coli bundle-forming pilus.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.


The Cpx envelope stress response is induced by the misfolding of periplasmic proteins and restores envelope homeostasis by upregulating several periplasmic protein folding and degrading factors. The Cpx response also regulates the expression of a variety of envelope-spanning protein complexes, including flagella, secretion systems and pili, which play an important role in pathogenesis. In a previous study, we inactivated the Cpx response in enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC), a causative agent of infant diarrhoea, and observed decreased expression of its major adhesin, the bundle-forming pilus (BFP). Here, we examined the mechanism underlying this BFP expression defect, and found that this phenotype can be attributed to insufficient expression of periplasmic folding factors, such as DsbA, DegP and CpxP. Hence, a low level of Cpx pathway activity promotes BFP synthesis by upregulating factors important for folding of BFP component proteins. Conversely, we found that full induction of the Cpx response inhibits BFP expression, mainly by repressing transcription of the bfp gene cluster. In combination with a previous report examining EPEC type III secretion, our results demonstrate that the Cpx response co-ordinates the repression of cell-surface structures during periods of envelope stress.

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