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Mol Microbiol. 2015 Sep;97(6):1158-67. doi: 10.1111/mmi.13093. Epub 2015 Jul 4.

Transcriptional regulation of the Chlamydia heat shock stress response in an intracellular infection.

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Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, University of California, Irvine, CA, USA.
Department of Medicine, University of California, Irvine, CA, USA.


Bacteria encode heat shock proteins that aid in survival during stressful growth conditions. In addition, the major heat shock proteins of the intracellular bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis have been associated with immune pathology and disease. We developed a ChIP-qPCR method to study the regulation of chlamydial heat shock gene regulation during an intracellular infection. This approach allowed us to show that chlamydial heat shock genes are regulated by the transcription factor HrcA within an infected cell, providing validation for previous in vitro findings. Induction of chlamydial heat shock gene expression by elevated temperature was due to loss of HrcA binding to heat shock promoters, supporting a mechanism of derepression. This heat shock response was rapid, whereas recovery of HrcA binding and return to non-stress transcript levels occurred more slowly. We also found that control of heat shock gene expression was differentially regulated over the course of the intracellular Chlamydia infection. There was evidence of HrcA-mediated regulation of heat shock genes throughout the chlamydial developmental cycle, but the level of repression was lower at early times. This is the first study of Chlamydia-infected cells showing the effect of an environmental signal on transcription factor-DNA binding and target gene expression in the bacterium.

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