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J Bacteriol. 1998 Jul;180(13):3410-20.

The V antigen of Yersinia pestis regulates Yop vectorial targeting as well as Yop secretion through effects on YopB and LcrG.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Chandler Medical Center, University of Kentucky, Lexington 40536-0084, USA.


Yersinia pestis expresses a set of secreted proteins called Yops and the bifunctional LcrV, which has both regulatory and antihost functions. Yops and LcrV expression and the activity of the type III mechanism for their secretion are coordinately regulated by environmental signals such as Ca2+ concentration and eukaryotic cell contact. In vitro, Yops and LcrV are secreted into the culture medium in the absence of Ca2+ as part of the low-Ca2+ response (LCR). The LCR is induced in a tissue culture model by contact with eukaryotic cells that results in Yop translocation into cells and subsequent cytotoxicity. The secretion mechanism is believed to indirectly regulate expression of lcrV and yop operons by controlling the intracellular concentration of a secreted negative regulator. LcrG, a secretion-regulatory protein, is thought to block secretion of Yops and LcrV, possibly at the inner face of the inner membrane. A recent model proposes that when the LCR is induced, the increased expression of LcrV yields an excess of LcrV relative to LcrG, and this is sufficient for LcrV to bind LcrG and unblock secretion. To test this LcrG titration model, LcrG and LcrV were expressed alone or together in a newly constructed lcrG deletion strain, a delta lcrG2 mutant, of Y. pestis that produces low levels of LcrV and constitutively expresses and secretes Yops. Overexpression of LcrG in this mutant background was able to block secretion and depress expression of Yops in the presence of Ca2+ and to dramatically decrease Yop expression and secretion in growth medium lacking Ca2+. Overexpression of both LcrG and LcrV in the delta lcrG2 strain restored wild-type levels of Yop expression and Ca2+ control of Yop secretion. Surprisingly, when HeLa cells were infected with the delta lcrG2 strain, no cytotoxicity was apparent and translocation of Yops was abolished. This correlated with an altered distribution of YopB as measured by accessibility to trypsin. These effects were not due to the absence of LcrG, because they were alleviated by restoration of LcrV expression and secretion alone. LcrV itself was found to enter HeLa cells in a nonpolarized manner. These studies supported the LcrG titration model of LcrV's regulatory effect at the level of Yop secretion and revealed a further role of LcrV in the deployment of YopB, which in turn is essential for the vectorial translocation of Yops into eukaryotic cells.

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