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Mol Microbiol. 2013 Oct;90(1):103-13. doi: 10.1111/mmi.12350. Epub 2013 Aug 16.

Sigma factor RpoN (σ54) regulates pilE transcription in commensal Neisseria elongata.

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The BIO5 Institute, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, 85721, USA; Department of Immunobiology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, 85721, USA.


Human-adapted Neisseria includes two pathogens, Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Neisseria meningitidis, and at least 13 species of commensals that colonize many of the same niches as the pathogens. The Type IV pilus plays an important role in the biology of pathogenic Neisseria. In these species, Sigma factor RpoD (σ(70)), Integration Host Factor, and repressors RegF and CrgA regulate transcription of pilE, the gene encoding the pilus structural subunit. The Type IV pilus is also a strictly conserved trait in commensal Neisseria. We present evidence that a different mechanism regulates pilE transcription in commensals. Using Neisseria elongata as a model, we show that Sigma factor RpoN (σ(54)), Integration Host Factor, and an activator we name Npa regulate pilE transcription. Taken in context with previous reports, our findings indicate pilE regulation switched from an RpoN- to an RpoD-dependent mechanism as pathogenic Neisseria diverged from commensals during evolution. Our findings have implications for the timing of Tfp expression and Tfp-mediated host cell interactions in these two groups of bacteria.

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