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FASEB J. 2011 Dec;25(12):4445-56. doi: 10.1096/fj.11-188912. Epub 2011 Sep 12.

CodY regulation is required for full virulence and heme iron acquisition in Bacillus anthracis.

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Unité des Toxines et Pathogénie Bactériennes, Laboratoire Pathogénie des Toxi-Infections Bactériennes, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France.


Capsule and toxin are the major virulence factors of Bacillus anthracis. The B. anthracis pleiotropic regulator CodY activates toxin gene expression by post-translationally regulating the accumulation of the global regulator AtxA. However, the role of CodY on B. anthracis capsulation and virulence of encapsulated strains has been unknown. The role of CodY in B. anthracis virulence was studied in mouse and guinea pig models. Spore outgrowth and dissemination of the vegetative cells was followed in mice by bioluminescent imaging. We also determined the state of capsulation and the iron requirement for growth of the codY mutant. In all models tested, the codY mutant strain was strongly attenuated compared to the wild-type strain and, in mice, also compared to the atxA strain. The disruption of codY did not affect either ex vivo or in vivo capsulation, whereas atxA deletion affected ex vivo capsulation only. The disruption of codY led to a delayed initiation of dissemination but similar kinetics of subsequent spread of the bacilli. The codY mutant cannot grow on heme iron as sole iron source, whereas the parental and complemented strains can. The lack of CodY-mediated transcription weakens virulence by controlling iron acquisition and synthesis of toxin, but without modifying capsulation.

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