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J Bacteriol. 2012 Oct;194(19):5255-63. doi: 10.1128/JB.00952-12. Epub 2012 Jul 20.

Identification and characterization of the functional toxboxes in the Vibrio cholerae cholera toxin promoter.

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Department of Immunology and Microbiology, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan, USA.


Following the consumption of contaminated food or water by a human host, the Vibrio cholerae bacterium produces virulence factors, including cholera toxin (CT), which directly causes voluminous diarrhea, producing cholera. A complex regulatory network controls virulence gene expression and responds to various environmental signals and transcription factors. Ultimately, ToxT, a member of the AraC/XylS transcription regulator family, is responsible for activating the transcription of the virulence genes. ToxT-regulated promoters all contain one or more copies of the toxbox, a 13-bp DNA sequence which ToxT recognizes. Nucleotides 2 through 7 of the toxbox sequence are well conserved and contain an invariant tract of four consecutive T nucleotides, whereas the remainder of the toxbox sequence is not highly conserved other than being A/T rich. The binding of ToxT to toxboxes is required to activate the transcription of virulence genes, and toxboxes in several virulence gene promoters have been characterized. However, the toxboxes required for the activation of transcription from the cholera toxin promoter PctxAB have not been identified. PctxAB contains a series of heptad repeats (GATTTTT), each of which matches the 5' end of the toxbox consensus sequence and is a potential binding site for ToxT. Using site-directed mutagenesis and high-resolution copper-phenanthroline footprinting, we have identified the functional toxboxes required for the ToxT activation of PctxAB. Our findings suggest that ToxT binds to only two toxboxes within PctxAB, despite the presence of several other potential ToxT binding sites within the promoter. Both toxboxes are essential for DNA binding and the full activation of ctxAB transcription.

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