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Mol Microbiol. 1998 May;28(4):705-17.

The hexA gene of Erwinia carotovora encodes a LysR homologue and regulates motility and the expression of multiple virulence determinants.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, UK.


We have identified a gene important for the regulation of exoenzyme virulence factor synthesis in the plant pathogen Erwinia carotovora ssp. carotovora (Ecc) and virulence and motility in Erwinia carotovora ssp. atroseptica (Eca). This gene, hexA (hyperproduction of exoenzymes), is a close relative of the Erwinia chrysanthemi (Echr) gene pecT and encodes a member of the LysR family of transcriptional regulators. hexA mutants in both Ecc and Eca produce abnormally high levels of the exoenzyme virulence factors pectate lyase, cellulase and protease. In addition, Eca hexA mutants show increased expression of the fliA and fliC genes and hypermotility. Consistent with a role as a global regulator, expression of hexA from even a low-copy plasmid can suppress exoenzyme production in Ecc and Eca and motility in Eca. Production of the quorum-sensing pheromone OHHL in Ecc hexA is higher throughout the growth curve compared with the wild-type strain. Overexpression of Ecc hexA also caused widespread effects in several strains of the opportunistic human pathogen, Serratia. Low-copy hexA expression resulted in repression of exoenzyme, pigment and antibiotic production and repression of the spreading phenotype. Finally, mutations in hexA were shown to increase Ecc or Eca virulence in planta.

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