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EMBO J. 1996 Jan 2;15(1):102-9.

Phosphorylated BvgA is sufficient for transcriptional activation of virulence-regulated genes in Bordetella pertussis.

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Unité de Biochimie des Régulations Cellulaires, Institut Pasteur, 28 rue du Docteur Roux, Paris, France.


In Bordetella pertussis the expression of virulence factors is coordinately regulated by the BvgS and BvgA proteins, members of the bacterial two-component signal transduction family, BvgS being the transmembrane sensor and BvgA the regulator. Activation of virulence gene expression requires phosphorylation of BvgA. On the basis of observed differences in the regulation of individual genes, the existence of accessory regulators has been postulated. They were supposed to be necessary for expression of genes encoding adenylate cyclase toxin (cya) and pertussis toxin (ptx), but not required for the expression of fha, encoding filamentous hemagglutinin. To clarify this issue we investigated the mechanism of activation of the BvgAS-controlled genes by performing in vitro run-off transcription experiments. We show, using purified RNA polymerase of B.pertussis, that phosphorylated BvgA is sufficient for transcriptional activation of the major virulence genes, thus providing good evidence that BvgA regulation operates directly with the transcription initiation machinery at the promoters of the virulence genes without a requirement for accessory activators. In addition, our results indicate that activation of the different promoters may involve distinct mechanisms. We suggest that the previously observed differences in regulation of individual virulence-associated genes reflect differences in the phosphorylation state of BvgA.

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