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Mol Microbiol. 1994 Jan;11(2):337-47.

Mutational analysis of the Bordetella pertussis fim/fha gene cluster: identification of a gene with sequence similarities to haemolysin accessory genes involved in export of FHA.

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Molecular Microbiology Unit, National Institute of Public Health and Environmental Protection, Bilthoven, The Netherlands.


The chromosome of Bordetella pertussis harbours a region of 27 contiguous kb, which contains the bvg, fha and fim genes, involved in the co-ordinate regulation of virulence genes, FHA production and fimbriae production, respectively. The linkage of FHA and fimbrial genes has resulted in some confusion concerning the existence and location of genes required for the production of FHA and the function of the fimbrial genes fimB-D, which were proposed to be involved in both FHA and fimbriae biosynthesis. Through the use of non-polar mutations in each of these genes, we found that fimB-D are required for the production of both serotype 2 and 3 fimbriae, but not for FHA biosynthesis. Furthermore, a large open reading frame, designated fhaC, was identified downstream of fimD. It was shown that fhaC is essential for FHA production but not for fimbriae biogenesis. We propose that insertion mutations in fimB-D affect FHA production because of polar effects on fhaC expression. An insertion in the region downstream of fhaC had only a slight effect on FHA and fimbriae production. The fhaC gene product shows homology with ShIB and HpmB, two outer membrane proteins involved in export and activation of the haemolysins, ShIA and HpmA, of Serratia marcescens and Proteus mirabilis, respectively. Homology is also observed between the N-termini of FHA, ShIA and HpmA. Export of the haemolysins requires the N-termini of these molecules, and when this region was removed from FHA by an in-frame deletion, FHA biosynthesis was abolished. These results suggest that the N-terminus of FHA interacts with FhaC, and that as a result FHA is transported across the outer membrane.

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