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J Bacteriol. 2011 Nov;193(21):5936-49. doi: 10.1128/JB.05877-11. Epub 2011 Aug 26.

Expression during host infection and localization of Yersinia pestis autotransporter proteins.

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Department of Genetics, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599, USA.


Yersinia pestis CO92 has 12 open reading frames encoding putative conventional autotransporters (yaps), nine of which appear to produce functional proteins. Here, we demonstrate the ability of the Yap proteins to localize to the cell surface of both Escherichia coli and Yersinia pestis and show that a subset of these proteins undergoes processing by bacterial surface omptins to be released into the supernatant. Numerous autotransporters have been implicated in pathogenesis, suggesting a role for the Yaps as virulence factors in Y. pestis. Using the C57BL/6 mouse models of bubonic and pneumonic plague, we determined that all of these genes are transcribed in the lymph nodes during bubonic infection and in the lungs during pneumonic infection, suggesting a role for the Yaps during mammalian infection. In vitro transcription studies did not identify a particular environmental stimulus responsible for transcriptional induction. The primary sequences of the Yaps reveal little similarity to any characterized autotransporters; however, two of the genes are present in operons, suggesting that the proteins encoded in these operons may function together. Further work aims to elucidate the specific functions of the Yaps and clarify the contributions of these proteins to Y. pestis pathogenesis.

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