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Mol Microbiol. 1997 Sep;25(6):1099-111.

Phase variation in tcpH modulates expression of the ToxR regulon in Vibrio cholerae.

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Infectious Disease Division, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114, USA.


We evaluated a spontaneous mutant of Vibrio cholerae, which was avirulent in an infant mouse and had reduced expression of cholera toxin and TcpA in response to environmental signals. The toxR, toxS and toxT genes in the mutant were normal, but transcription of toxT was absent. A plasmid expressing wild-type tcpP and tcpH complemented the mutant. The mutation resulted from a frameshift in a string of nine G residues within tcpH; similar slipped-strand mutations in tcpH arose at a frequency of 10(-4) during overnight growth and in the majority of colonies by the end of 5 days of growth in ToxR-inducing conditions. Transcription of tcpPH was regulated by temperature and pH independently of ToxR or ToxT. These results suggest that TcpH couples environmental signals (temperature and pH) to expression of the ToxR regulon, and provide a model for phase variation in the co-ordinate expression of cholera virulence factors.

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