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J Bacteriol. 2012 Sep;194(18):5101-9. doi: 10.1128/JB.00932-12. Epub 2012 Jul 20.

Basis for the essentiality of H-NS family members in Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

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Division of Infectious Diseases, Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Members of the histone-like nucleoid-structuring (H-NS) family of proteins have been shown to play important roles in silencing gene expression and in nucleoid compaction. In Pseudomonas aeruginosa, the two H-NS family members MvaT and MvaU are thought to bind the same AT-rich regions of the chromosome and function coordinately to control a common set of genes. Here we present evidence that the loss of both MvaT and MvaU cannot be tolerated because it results in the production of Pf4 phage that superinfect and kill cells or inhibit their growth. Using a ClpXP-based protein depletion system in combination with transposon mutagenesis, we identify mutants of P. aeruginosa that can tolerate the depletion of MvaT in an ΔmvaU mutant background. Many of these mutants contain insertions in genes encoding components, assembly factors, or regulators of type IV pili or contain insertions in genes of the prophage Pf4. We demonstrate that cells that no longer produce type IV pili or that no longer produce the replicative form of the Pf4 genome can tolerate the loss of both MvaT and MvaU. Furthermore, we show that the loss of both MvaT and MvaU results in an increase in expression of Pf4 genes and that cells that cannot produce type IV pili are resistant to infection by Pf4 phage. Our findings suggest that type IV pili are the receptors for Pf4 phage and that the essential activities of MvaT and MvaU are to repress the expression of Pf4 genes.

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