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PLoS One. 2010 Sep 17;5(9). pii: e12840. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0012840.

Cell membrane is impaired, accompanied by enhanced type III secretion system expression in Yersinia pestis deficient in RovA regulator.

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Department of Parasitology, Harbin Medical University, Harbin, Heilongjiang, China.



In the enteropathogenic Yersinia species, RovA regulates the expression of invasin, which is important for enteropathogenic pathogenesis but is inactivated in Yersinia pestis. Investigation of the RovA regulon in Y. pestis at 26 °C has revealed that RovA is a global regulator that contributes to virulence in part by the direct regulation of psaEFABC. However, the regulatory roles of RovA in Y. pestis at 37 °C, which allows most virulence factors in mammalian hosts to be expressed, are still poorly understood.


The transcriptional profile of an in-frame rovA mutant of Y. pestis biovar Microtus strain 201 was analyzed under type III secretion system (T3SS) induction conditions using microarray techniques, and it was revealed that many cell-envelope and transport/binding proteins were differentially expressed in the ΔrovA mutant. Most noticeably, many of the T3SS genes, including operons encoding the translocon, needle and Yop (Yersinia outer protein) effectors, were significantly up-regulated. Analysis of Yop proteins confirmed that YopE and YopJ were also expressed in greater amounts in the mutant. However, electrophoresis mobility shift assay results demonstrated that the His-RovA protein could not bind to the promoter sequences of the T3SS genes, suggesting that an indirect regulatory mechanism is involved. Transmission electron microscopy analysis indicated that there are small loose electron dense particle-like structures that surround the outer membrane of the mutant cells. The bacterial membrane permeability to CFSE (carboxyfluorescein diacetate succinimidyl ester) was significantly decreased in the ΔrovA mutant compared to the wild-type strain. Taken together, these results revealed the improper construction and dysfunction of the membrane in the ΔrovA mutant.


We demonstrated that the RovA regulator plays critical roles in the construction and functioning of the bacterial membrane, which sheds considerable light on the regulatory functions of RovA in antibiotic resistance and environmental adaptation. The expression of T3SS was upregulated in the ΔrovA mutant through an indirect regulatory mechanism, which is possibly related to the altered membrane construction in the mutant.

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