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Mol Microbiol. 1993 Aug;9(3):459-68.

The absence of a surface protease, OmpT, determines the intercellular spreading ability of Shigella: the relationship between the ompT and kcpA loci.

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National Institute for Leprosy Research, Tokyo, Japan.


A large plasmid-encoded protein, VirG, on the bacterial surface is essential for the spreading of Shigella by eliciting polar deposition of filamentous actin in the cytoplasm of epithelial cells. VirG expression from the large plasmid is diminished greatly when it is introduced into Escherichia coli K-12 from Shigella. In an attempt to identify factors affecting VirG expression, we found that the absence of the ompT gene, encoding outer membrane protease OmpT, restored full production of VirG protein to E. coli K-12. Conversely, upon introduction of the ompT gene of E. coli K-12 into Shigella, spreading ability was completely abolished, probably because of the proteolytic degradation of VirG protein by OmpT. Analysis of the DNA sequence of the ompT region indicated that the absence of the ompT gene occurred in Shigella and enteroinvasive E. coli strains, and that the absent DNA segment corresponded to a remnant lambdoid phage structure found in E. coli K-12, which encompasses a 21 kb DNA segment spanning from argU through to the ompT genes. Since ompT is located near purE in E. coli K-12 and a virulence locus for provoking keratoconjunctivitis in the eyes of guinea-pigs, named kcpA, is located near purE in S. flexneri, and the two loci are involved in VirG expression, the KcpA- mutants of S. flexneri 2a constructed were examined for correlation between acquisition of ompT and VirG degradation. Our data suggest that the previous recognition of a kcpA locus in S. flexneri is the result of transfer of the ompT gene from E. coli K-12, giving rise to a KcpA- phenotype. These results indicate that the lack of OmpT protease confers upon Shigella the ability to spread into adjacent epithelial cells.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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