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J Bacteriol. 2014 Oct;196(19):3421-9. doi: 10.1128/JB.01956-14. Epub 2014 Jul 14.

Repetitive sequence variations in the promoter region of the adhesin-encoding gene sabA of Helicobacter pylori affect transcription.

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Department of Biology, The College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, USA.
Department of Biology, The College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, USA


The pathogenesis of diseases elicited by the gastric pathogen Helicobacter pylori is partially determined by the effectiveness of adaptation to the variably acidic environment of the host stomach. Adaptation includes appropriate adherence to the gastric epithelium via outer membrane protein adhesins such as SabA. The expression of sabA is subject to regulation via phase variation in the promoter and coding regions as well as repression by the two-component system ArsRS. In this study, we investigated the role of a homopolymeric thymine [poly(T)] tract -50 to -33 relative to the sabA transcriptional start site in H. pylori strain J99. We quantified sabA expression in H. pylori J99 by quantitative reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR), demonstrating significant changes in sabA expression associated with experimental manipulations of poly(T) tract length. Mimicking the length increase of this tract by adding adenines instead of thymines had similar effects, while the addition of other nucleotides failed to affect sabA expression in the same manner. We hypothesize that modification of the poly(T) tract changes DNA topology, affecting regulatory protein interaction(s) or RNA polymerase binding efficiency. Additionally, we characterized the interaction between the sabA promoter region and ArsR, a response regulator affecting sabA expression. Using recombinant ArsR in electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSA), we localized binding to a sequence with partial dyad symmetry -20 and +38 relative to the sabA +1 site. The control of sabA expression by both ArsRS and phase variation at two distinct repeat regions suggests the control of sabA expression is both complex and vital to H. pylori infection.

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