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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2012 Oct;78(19):6883-9. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01679-12. Epub 2012 Jul 20.

TetR-based gene regulation systems for Francisella tularensis.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, School of Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA.


There are a number of genetic tools available for studying Francisella tularensis, the etiological agent of tularemia; however, there is no effective inducible or repressible gene expression system. Here, we describe inducible and repressible gene expression systems for F. tularensis based on the Tet repressor, TetR. For the inducible system, a tet operator sequence was cloned into a modified F. tularensis groESL promoter sequence and carried in a plasmid that constitutively expressed TetR. To monitor regulation the luminescence operon, luxCDABE, was cloned under the hybrid Francisella tetracycline-regulated promoter (FTRp), and transcription was initiated with addition of anhydrotetracycline (ATc), which binds TetR and alleviates TetR association with tetO. Expression levels measured by luminescence correlated with ATc inducer concentrations ranging from 20 to 250 ng ml(-1). In the absence of ATc, luminescence was below the level of detection. The inducible system was also functional during the infection of J774A.1 macrophages, as determined by both luminescence and rescue of a mutant strain with an intracellular growth defect. The repressible system consists of FTRp regulated by a reverse TetR mutant (revTetR), TetR r1.7. Using this system with the lux reporter, the addition of ATc resulted in decreased luminescence, while in the absence of ATc the level of luminescence was not significantly different from that of a construct lacking TetR r1.7. Utilizing both systems, the essentiality of SecA, the protein translocase ATPase, was confirmed, establishing that they can effectively regulate gene expression. These two systems will be invaluable in exploring F. tularensis protein function.

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