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1.  AraC/XylS Family Stress Response Regulators Rob, SoxS, PliA, and OpiA in the Fire Blight Pathogen Erwinia amylovora 
Journal of Bacteriology  2014;196(17):3098-3110.
Transcriptional regulators of the AraC/XylS family have been associated with multidrug resistance, organic solvent tolerance, oxidative stress, and virulence in clinically relevant enterobacteria. In the present study, we identified four homologous AraC/XylS regulators, Rob, SoxS, PliA, and OpiA, from the fire blight pathogen Erwinia amylovora Ea1189. Previous studies have shown that the regulators MarA, Rob, and SoxS from Escherichia coli mediate multiple-antibiotic resistance, primarily by upregulating the AcrAB-TolC efflux system. However, none of the four AraC/XylS regulators from E. amylovora was able to induce a multidrug resistance phenotype in the plant pathogen. Overexpression of rob led to a 2-fold increased expression of the acrA gene. However, the rob-overexpressing strain showed increased resistance to only a limited number of antibiotics. Furthermore, Rob was able to induce tolerance to organic solvents in E. amylovora by mechanisms other than efflux. We demonstrated that SoxS from E. amylovora is involved in superoxide resistance. A soxS-deficient mutant of Ea1189 was not able to grow on agar plates supplemented with the superoxide-generating agent paraquat. Furthermore, expression of soxS was induced by redox cycling agents. We identified two novel members of the AraC/XylS family in E. amylovora. PliA was highly upregulated during the early infection phase in apple rootstock and immature pear fruits. Multiple compounds were able to induce the expression of pliA, including apple leaf extracts, phenolic compounds, redox cycling agents, heavy metals, and decanoate. OpiA was shown to play a role in the regulation of osmotic and alkaline pH stress responses.
PMCID: PMC4135657  PMID: 24936054
2.  Signal-specific temporal response by the Salmonella PhoP/PhoQ regulatory system 
Molecular microbiology  2013;91(1):135-144.
The two-component system PhoP/PhoQ controls a large number of genes responsible for a variety of physiological and virulence functions in Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium. Here we describe a mechanism whereby the transcriptional activator PhoP elicits expression of dissimilar gene sets when its cognate sensor PhoQ is activated by different signals in the periplasm. We determine that transcription of over half of the genes directly activated by PhoP require the Mg2+ transporter MgtA when the PhoQ inducing signal is low Mg2+, but not when PhoQ is activated by mildly acidic pH or the antimicrobial peptide C18G. MgtA promotes the active (i.e., phosphorylated) form of PhoP by removing Mg2+ from the periplasm where it functions as a repressing signal for PhoQ. MgtA-dependent expression enhances resistance to the cationic antibiotic polymyxin B. Production of the MgtA protein requires cytoplasmic Mg2+ levels to drop below a certain threshold, thereby creating a two-tiered temporal response among PhoP-dependent genes.
PMCID: PMC3890429  PMID: 24256574
3.  Magnesium and the Role of mgtC in Growth of Salmonella typhimurium 
Infection and Immunity  1998;66(8):3802-3809.
Salmonella typhimurium has three distinct transport systems for Mg2+: CorA, MgtA, and MgtB. The mgtCB operon encodes two proteins, MgtC, a hydrophobic protein with a predicted molecular mass of 22.5 kDa, and MgtB, a 102-kDa P-type ATPase Mg2+ transport protein. The mgtCB locus has been identified as part of a new Salmonella pathogenicity island, SPI-3. Transcription of mgtCB is regulated by extracellular Mg2+ via the two-component PhoPQ regulatory system important for virulence. To elucidate MgtC’s role in a low-Mg2+ environment, we looked at growth and transport in strains lacking the CorA and MgtA Mg2+ transporters but expressing MgtB, MgtC, or both. mgtC mgtB+ and mgtC+ mgtB+ strains exhibited growth in N minimal medium without added Mg2+ with a 1- to 2-h lag phase. An mgtC+ mgtB strain was also able to grow in N minimal medium without added Mg2+ but only after a 24-h lag phase. In N minimal medium containing 10 mM Mg2+, all strains grew after a short lag phase; the mgtC+ mgtB strain grew to a higher optical density at 600 nm than an mgtC+ mgtB+ strain and was comparable to wild type. The lengthy lag phase before growth in an mgtC+ mgtB strain was not due to lack of expression of MgtC. Western blot analysis indicated that substantial MgtC protein is present by 2 h after suspension in N minimal medium. Surprisingly, in an mgtC+ mgtB+ strain, MgtC was undetectable during Mg2+ starvation, although large amounts of MgtB were observed. The lack of expression of MgtC is not dependent on functional MgtB, since a strain carrying a nonfunctional MgtB with a mutation (D379A) also did not make MgtC. Since, during invasion of eukaryotic cells, S. typhimurium appears to be exposed to a low-pH as well as a low-Mg2+ environment, the growth of an mgtC+ mgtB strain was tested at low pH with and without added Mg2+. While significant quantities of MgtC could be detected after suspension at pH 5.2, the mgtC+ mgtB strain was unable to grow at pH 5.2 whether or not Mg2+ was present. Finally, using 63Ni2+ and 57Co2+ as alternative substrates for the unavailable 28Mg2+, cation uptake could not be detected in an mgtC+ mgtB strain after Mg2+ starvation. We conclude that MgtC is not a Mg2+ transporter and that it does not have a primary role in the survival of S. typhimurium at low pH.
PMCID: PMC108421  PMID: 9673265
4.  Activated by Different Signals, the PhoP/PhoQ Two-Component System Differentially Regulates Metal Uptake▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2009;191(23):7174-7181.
The PhoP/PhoQ two-component system controls several physiological and virulence functions in Salmonella enterica. This system is activated by low Mg2+, acidic pH, and antimicrobial peptides, but the biological consequences resulting from sensing multiple signals are presently unclear. Here, we report that the PhoP/PhoQ system regulates different Salmonella genes depending on whether the inducing signal is acidic pH or low Mg2+. When Salmonella experiences acidic pH, the PhoP/PhoQ system promotes Fe2+ uptake in a process that requires the response regulator RstA, activating transcription of the Fe2+ transporter gene feoB. In contrast, the PhoP-induced RstA protein did not promote feoB expression at neutral pH with low Mg2+. The PhoP/PhoQ system promotes the expression of the Mg2+ transporter mgtA gene only when activated in bacteria starved for Mg2+. This is because mgtA transcription promoted at high Mg2+ concentrations by the acidic-pH-activated PhoP protein failed to reach the mgtA coding region due to the mgtA leader region functioning as a Mg2+ sensor. Our results show that a single two-component regulatory system can regulate distinct sets of genes in response to different input signals.
PMCID: PMC2786564  PMID: 19801407
5.  Role of the acrAB locus in organic solvent tolerance mediated by expression of marA, soxS, or robA in Escherichia coli. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1997;179(19):6122-6126.
Escherichia coli K-12 strains are normally tolerant to n-hexane and susceptible to cyclohexane. Constitutive expression of marA of the multiple antibiotic resistance (mar) locus or of the soxS or robA gene product produced tolerance to cyclohexane. Inactivation of the mar locus or the robA locus, but not the soxRS locus, increased organic solvent susceptibility in the wild type and Mar mutants (to both n-hexane and cyclohexane). The organic solvent hypersusceptibility is a newly described phenotype for a robA-inactivated strain. Multicopy expression of mar, soxS, or robA induced cyclohexane tolerance in strains with a deleted or inactivated chromosomal mar, soxRS, or robA locus; thus, each transcriptional activator acts independently of the others. However, in a strain with 39 kb of chromosomal DNA, including the mar locus, deleted, only the multicopy complete mar locus, consisting of its two operons, produced cyclohexane tolerance. Deletion of acrAB from either wild-type E. coli K-12 or a Mar mutant resulted in loss of tolerance to both n-hexane and cyclohexane. Organic solvent tolerance mediated by mar, soxS, or robA was not restored in strains with acrAB deleted. These findings strongly suggest that active efflux specified by the acrAB locus is linked to intrinsic organic solvent tolerance and to tolerance mediated by the marA, soxS, or robA gene product in E. coli.
PMCID: PMC179517  PMID: 9324261
6.  Molecular basis of the magnesium deprivation response in Salmonella typhimurium: identification of PhoP-regulated genes. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1996;178(17):5092-5099.
The PhoP-PhoQ two-component system is essential for virulence in Salmonella typhimurium. This system controls expression of some 40 different proteins, yet most PhoP-regulated genes remain unknown. To identify PhoP-regulated genes, we isolated a library of 50,000 independent lac gene transcriptional fusion strains and investigated whether production of beta-galactosidase was regulated by PhoP. We recovered 47 lac gene fusions that were activated and 7 that were repressed when PhoP was expressed. Analysis of 40 such fusions defined some 30 loci, including mgtA and mgtCB, which encode two of the three Mg2+ uptake systems of S. typhimurium; ugd, encoding UDP-glucose dehydrogenase; phoP, indicative that the phoPQ operon is autoregulated; and an open reading frame encoding a protein with sequence similarity to VanX, a dipeptidase required for resistance to vancomycin. Transcription of PhoP-activated genes was regulated by the levels of Mg2+ in a PhoP-dependent manner. Strains with mutations in phoP or phoQ were defective for growth in low-Mg2+ media. The mgtA and mgtCB mutants reached lower optical densities than the wild-type strain in low-Mg2+ liquid media but displayed normal growth on low-Mg2+ solid media. Six PhoP-activated genes were identified as essential to form colonies on low-Mg'+ solid media. Cumulatively, our experiments establish that the PhoP-PhoQ system governs the adaptation to magnesium-limiting environments.
PMCID: PMC178303  PMID: 8752324
7.  Promoter and Riboswitch Control of the Mg2+ Transporter MgtA from Salmonella enterica▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2009;192(2):604-607.
The MgtA protein from Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium mediates Mg2+ uptake from the periplasm into the cytoplasm. Here we report that the PhoP/PhoQ two-component regulatory system, which responds to periplasmic Mg2+, governs mgtA transcription initiation at all investigated Mg2+ concentrations and that the Mg2+-sensing 5′ leader region of the mgtA gene controls transcription elongation into the mgtA coding region when Salmonella is grown in media with <50 μM Mg2+. Overexpression of the Mg2+ transporter CorA, which is believed to increase cytoplasmic Mg2+ levels, decreased mgtA transcription in a manner dependent on a functional mgtA 5′ leader.
PMCID: PMC2805325  PMID: 19897653
8.  Activation of multiple antibiotic resistance and binding of stress-inducible promoters by Escherichia coli Rob protein. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1995;177(7):1655-1661.
Multiple antibiotic resistance in Escherichia coli can be mediated by induction of the SoxS or MarA protein, triggered by oxygen radicals (in the soxRS regulon) or certain antibiotics (in the marRAB regulon), respectively. These small proteins (SoxS, 107 residues; MarA, 127 residues) are homologous to the C terminus of the XylS-AraC family of proteins and are more closely related to a approximately 100-residue segment in the N terminus of Rob protein, which binds the right arm of the replication origin, oriC. We investigated whether the SoxS-MarA homology in Rob might extend to the regulation of some of the same inducible genes. Overexpression of Rob indeed conferred multiple antibiotic resistance similar to that known for SoxS and MarA (against chloramphenicol, tetracycline, nalidixic acid, and puromycin), as well as resistance to the superoxide-generating compound phenazine methosulfate. The Rob-induced antibiotic resistance depended only partially on the micF antisense RNA that down-regulates the OmpF outer membrane porin to limit antibiotic uptake. Similar antibiotic resistance was conferred by expression of a Rob fragment containing only the N-terminal 123 residues that constitute the SoxS-MarA homology. Both intact Rob and the N-terminal fragment activated expression of stress genes (inaA, fumC, sodA) but with a pattern distinct from that found for SoxS and MarA. Purified Rob protein bound a DNA fragment containing the micF promoter (50% bound at approximately 10(-9) M Rob) as strongly as it did oriC, and it bound more weakly to DNA containing the sodA, nfo, or zwf promoter (50% bound at 10(-8) to 10(-7) M). Rob formed multiple DNA-protein complexes with these fragments, as seen previously for SoxS. These data point to a DNA-binding gene activator module used in different protein contexts.
PMCID: PMC176790  PMID: 7896685
9.  Magnesium transport in Salmonella typhimurium: mgtA encodes a P-type ATPase and is regulated by Mg2+ in a manner similar to that of the mgtB P-type ATPase. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1995;177(10):2654-2662.
Salmonella typhimurium has three distinct Mg2+ transport systems: CorA, MgtA, and MgtB, each encoded by its respective gene. corA and mgtB have been previously sequenced and characterized. This report details the sequence and properties of mgtA. Like mgtB, mgtA encodes a P-type ATPase. The mgtA gene encodes a slightly smaller protein than does mgtB, with a predicted molecular mass of about 95 kDa, running at 91 kDa on protein gels, which compares with values of 101 and 102 kDa, respectively, for the MgtB protein. The deduced amino acid sequence of MgtA is only 50% identical to that of MgtB, with a further 25% conservative amino acid substitutions, surprisingly low for such otherwise functionally similar proteins from the same organism. Codon usage for each gene is normal for S. typhimurium, however, indicating that neither gene is the result of a recent acquisition from another organism. A single open reading frame at mgtA encodes MgtA, in contrast to mgtB, which is shown to be an operon encoding (5' to 3') the 22.5-kDa MgtC and the MgtB proteins. Genetic constructs were used to show that deletion of MgtC does not alter the expression or transport properties of MgtB, making the role of the companion MgtC protein unclear. (The S. typhimurium homolog of treR, which encodes a putative repressor for trehalose uptake, is encoded by a gene adjacent to mgtA, and its sequence is also reported. Finally, exteremely strong Mg(2+) regulation of the mgtA and mgtB promoters but not of the corA or treR promoters was demonstrated by cloning the appropriate DNA sequences with luxAB and measuring enhancement of light production as a function of extracellular Mg(2+) concentration. Lowering the extracellular Mg(2+) concentration from 10 mM to 1 or 10 microM elicited a transcriptional response of several thousandfold from both the mgtA and mgtB promoters.
PMCID: PMC176934  PMID: 7751273
10.  Effect of Transcriptional Activators SoxS, RobA, and RamA on Expression of Multidrug Efflux Pump AcrAB-TolC in Enterobacter cloacae 
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  2012;56(12):6256-6266.
Control of membrane permeability is a key step in regulating the intracellular concentration of antibiotics. Efflux pumps confer innate resistance to a wide range of toxic compounds such as antibiotics, dyes, detergents, and disinfectants in members of the Enterobacteriaceae. The AcrAB-TolC efflux pump is involved in multidrug resistance in Enterobacter cloacae. However, the underlying mechanism that regulates the system in this microorganism remains unknown. In Escherichia coli, the transcription of acrAB is upregulated under global stress conditions by proteins such as MarA, SoxS, and Rob. In the present study, two clinical isolates of E. cloacae, EcDC64 (a multidrug-resistant strain overexpressing the AcrAB-TolC efflux pump) and Jc194 (a strain with a basal AcrAB-TolC expression level), were used to determine whether similar global stress responses operate in E. cloacae and also to establish the molecular mechanisms underlying this response. A decrease in susceptibility to erythromycin, tetracycline, telithromycin, ciprofloxacin, and chloramphenicol was observed in clinical isolate Jc194 and, to a lesser extent in EcDC64, in the presence of salicylate, decanoate, tetracycline, and paraquat. Increased expression of the acrAB promoter in the presence of the above-described conditions was observed by flow cytometry and reverse transcription-PCR, by using a reporter fusion protein (green fluorescent protein). The expression level of the AcrAB promoter decreased in E. cloacae EcDC64 derivates deficient in SoxS, RobA, and RamA. Accordingly, the expression level of the AcrAB promoter was higher in E. cloacae Jc194 strains overproducing SoxS, RobA, and RamA. Overall, the data showed that SoxS, RobA, and RamA regulators were associated with the upregulation of acrAB, thus conferring antimicrobial resistance as well as a stress response in E. cloacae. In summary, the regulatory proteins SoxS, RobA, and RamA were cloned and sequenced for the first time in this species. The involvement of these proteins in conferring antimicrobial resistance through upregulation of acrAB was demonstrated in E. cloacae.
PMCID: PMC3497196  PMID: 23006750
11.  Constitutive SoxS Expression in a Fluoroquinolone-Resistant Strain with a Truncated SoxR Protein and Identification of a New Member of the marA-soxS-rob Regulon, mdtG▿  
Elevated levels of fluoroquinolone resistance are frequently found among Escherichia coli clinical isolates. This study investigated the antibiotic resistance mechanisms of strain NorE5, derived in vitro by exposing an E. coli clinical isolate, PS5, to two selection steps with increasing concentrations of norfloxacin. In addition to the amino acid substitution in GyrA (S83L) present in PS5, NorE5 has an amino acid change in ParC (S80R). Furthermore, we now find by Western blotting that NorE5 has a multidrug resistance phenotype resulting from the overexpression of the antibiotic resistance efflux pump AcrAB-TolC. Microarray and gene fusion analyses revealed significantly increased expression in NorE5 of soxS, a transcriptional activator of acrAB and tolC. The high soxS activity is attributable to a frameshift mutation that truncates SoxR, rendering it a constitutive transcriptional activator of soxS. Furthermore, microarray and reverse transcription-PCR analyses showed that mdtG (yceE), encoding a putative efflux pump, is overexpressed in the resistant strain. SoxS, MarA, and Rob activated an mdtG::lacZ fusion, and SoxS was shown to bind to the mdtG promoter, showing that mdtG is a member of the marA-soxS-rob regulon. The mdtG marbox sequence is in the backward or class I orientation within the promoter, and its disruption resulted in a loss of inducibility by MarA, SoxS, and Rob. Thus, chromosomal mutations in parC and soxR are responsible for the increased antibiotic resistance of NorE5.
PMCID: PMC2825980  PMID: 20008776
12.  Molecular Characterization of the Mg2+-Responsive PhoP-PhoQ Regulon in Salmonella enterica 
Journal of Bacteriology  2003;185(21):6287-6294.
The PhoP/PhoQ two-component system controls the extracellular magnesium deprivation response in Salmonella enterica. In addition, several virulence-associated genes that are mainly required for intramacrophage survival during the infection process are under the control of its transcriptional regulation. Despite shared Mg2+ modulation of the expression of the PhoP-activated genes, no consensus sequence common to all of them could be detected in their promoter regions. We have investigated the transcriptional regulation and the interaction of the response regulator PhoP with the promoter regions of the PhoP-activated loci phoPQ, mgtA, slyB, pmrD, pcgL, phoN, pagC, and mgtCB. A direct repeat of the heptanucleotide sequence (G/T)GTTTA(A/T) was identified as the conserved motif recognized by PhoP to directly control the gene expression of the first five loci, among which the first four are ancestral to enterobacteria. On the other hand, no direct interaction of the response regulator with the promoter of phoN, pagC, or mgtCB was apparent by either in vitro or in vivo assays. These loci are Salmonella specific and were probably acquired by horizontal DNA transfer. Besides, sequence analysis of pag promoters revealed the presence of a conserved PhoP box in 6 out of the 12 genes analyzed. Our results strongly suggest that the expression of a set of Mg2+-controlled genes is driven by PhoP via unknown intermediate regulatory mechanisms that could also involve ancillary factors.
PMCID: PMC219391  PMID: 14563863
13.  Defining a rob Regulon in Escherichia coli by Using Transposon Mutagenesis 
Journal of Bacteriology  2000;182(13):3794-3801.
The Rob protein of Escherichia coli is a member of the AraC-XylS family of prokaryotic transcriptional regulators and is expressed constitutively. Deletion of the rob gene increases susceptibility to organic solvents, while overexpression of Rob increases tolerance to organic solvents and resistance to a variety of antibiotics and to the superoxide-generating compound phenazine methosulfate. To determine whether constitutive levels of Rob regulate basal gene expression, we performed a MudJ transposon screen in a rob deletion mutant containing a plasmid that allows for controlled rob gene expression. We identified eight genes and confirmed that seven are transcriptionally activated by normal expression of Rob from the chromosomal rob gene (inaA, marR, aslB, ybaO, mdlA, yfhD, and ybiS). One gene, galT, was repressed by Rob. We also demonstrated by Northern analysis that basal expression of micF is significantly higher in wild-type E. coli than in a rob deletion mutant. Rob binding to the promoter regions of most of these genes was substantiated in electrophoretic mobility shift assays. However, Mu insertions in individual Rob-regulated genes did not affect solvent sensitivity. This phenotype may depend on changes in the expression of several of these Rob-regulated genes or on other genes that were not identified. Rob clearly affects the basal expression of genes with a broad range of functions, including antibiotic resistance, acid adaptation, carbon metabolism, cell wall synthesis, central intermediary metabolism, and transport. The magnitudes of Rob's effects are modest, however, and the protein may thus play a role as a general transcription cofactor.
PMCID: PMC94552  PMID: 10850996
14.  Mutational Analysis of the Residue at Position 48 in the Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium PhoQ Sensor Kinase 
Journal of Bacteriology  2003;185(6):1935-1941.
The PhoP/PhoQ two-component regulatory system of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium plays an essential role in controlling virulence by mediating the adaptation to Mg2+ depletion. The pho-24 allele of phoQ harbors a single amino acid substitution (T48I) in the periplasmic domain of the PhoQ histidine kinase sensor. This mutation has been shown to increase net phosphorylation of the PhoP response regulator. We analyzed the effect on signaling by PhoP/PhoQ of various amino acid substitutions at this position (PhoQ-T48X [X = A, S, V, I, or L]). Mutations T48V, T48I, and T48L were found to affect signaling by PhoP/PhoQ both in vivo and in vitro. Mutations PhoQ-T48V and PhoQ-T48I increased both the expression of the mgtA::lacZ transcriptional fusion and the net phosphorylation of PhoP, conferring to cells a PhoP constitutively active phenotype. In contrast, mutation PhoQ-T48L barely responded to changes in the concentration of external Mg2+, in vivo and in vitro, conferring to cells a PhoP constitutively inactive phenotype. By analyzing in vitro the individual catalytic activities of the PhoQ-T48X sensors, we found that the PhoP constitutively active phenotype observed for the PhoQ-T48V and PhoQ-T48I proteins is solely due to decreased phosphatase activity. In contrast, the PhoP constitutively inactive phenotype observed for the PhoQ-T48L mutant resulted from both decreased autokinase activity and increased phosphatase activity. Our data are consistent with a model in which the residue at position 48 of PhoQ contributes to a conformational switch between kinase- and phosphatase-dominant states.
PMCID: PMC150125  PMID: 12618457
15.  Characterization of RarA, a Novel AraC Family Multidrug Resistance Regulator in Klebsiella pneumoniae 
Transcriptional regulators, such as SoxS, RamA, MarA, and Rob, which upregulate the AcrAB efflux pump, have been shown to be associated with multidrug resistance in clinically relevant Gram-negative bacteria. In addition to the multidrug resistance phenotype, these regulators have also been shown to play a role in the cellular metabolism and possibly the virulence potential of microbial cells. As such, the increased expression of these proteins is likely to cause pleiotropic phenotypes. Klebsiella pneumoniae is a major nosocomial pathogen which can express the SoxS, MarA, Rob, and RamA proteins, and the accompanying paper shows that the increased transcription of ramA is associated with tigecycline resistance (M. Veleba and T. Schneiders, Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 56:4466–4467, 2012). Bioinformatic analyses of the available Klebsiella genome sequences show that an additional AraC-type regulator is encoded chromosomally. In this work, we characterize this novel AraC-type regulator, hereby called RarA (Regulator of antibiotic resistance A), which is encoded in K. pneumoniae, Enterobacter sp. 638, Serratia proteamaculans 568, and Enterobacter cloacae. We show that the overexpression of rarA results in a multidrug resistance phenotype which requires a functional AcrAB efflux pump but is independent of the other AraC regulators. Quantitative real-time PCR experiments show that rarA (MGH 78578 KPN_02968) and its neighboring efflux pump operon oqxAB (KPN_02969_02970) are consistently upregulated in clinical isolates collected from various geographical locations (Chile, Turkey, and Germany). Our results suggest that rarA overexpression upregulates the oqxAB efflux pump. Additionally, it appears that oqxR, encoding a GntR-type regulator adjacent to the oqxAB operon, is able to downregulate the expression of the oqxAB efflux pump, where OqxR complementation resulted in reductions to olaquindox MICs.
PMCID: PMC3421627  PMID: 22644028
16.  Identification and Molecular Characterization of the Mg2+ Stimulon of Escherichia coli 
Journal of Bacteriology  2003;185(13):3696-3702.
Transcription profile microarray analysis in Escherichia coli was performed to identify the member genes of the Mg2+ stimulon that respond to the availability of external Mg2+ in a PhoP/PhoQ two-component system-dependent manner. The mRNA levels of W3110 in the presence of 30 mM MgCl2, WP3022 (phoP defective), and WQ3007 (phoQ defective) were compared with those of W3110 in the absence of MgCl2. The expression ratios of a total of 232 genes were <0.75 in all three strains (the supplemental data are shown at, suggesting that the PhoP/PhoQ system is involved directly or indirectly in the transcription of these genes. Of those, 26 contained the PhoP box-like sequences with the direct repeats of (T/G)GTTTA within 500 bp upstream of the initiation codon. Furthermore, S1 nuclease assays of 26 promoters were performed to verify six new Mg2+ stimulon genes, hemL, nagA, rstAB, slyB, vboR, and yrbL, in addition to the phoPQ, mgrB, and mgtA genes reported previously. In gel shift and DNase I footprinting assays, all of these genes were found to be regulated directly by PhoP. Thus, we concluded that the phoPQ, mgrB, mgtA, hemL, nagA, rstAB, slyB, vboR, and yrbL genes make up the Mg2+ stimulon in E. coli.
PMCID: PMC161583  PMID: 12813061
17.  An antisense RNA that governs the expression kinetics of a multifunctional virulence gene 
Molecular microbiology  2010;76(4):1020-1033.
Genome-wide transcriptome analyses of several bacterial species have recently uncovered a hitherto unappreciated amount of antisense transcription. However, the physiological role, regulation and significance of such antisense transcripts are presently unclear. We now report the identification of a cis-encoded 1.2 kb long antisense RNA – termed AmgR – that is complementary to the mgtC portion of the mgtCBR polycistronic message from Salmonella enterica. The mgtCBR mRNA specifies the MgtC protein, which is necessary for survival within macrophages, virulence in mice and growth in low Mg2+; the Mg2+ transporter MgtB with no apparent role in virulence; and the membrane peptide MgtR mediating MgtC degradation. Expression of AmgR dimished both MgtC and MgtB protein levels in a process requiring RNase E but independent of RNase III, the RNA chaperone Hfq, and the regulatory peptide MgtR. Inactivation of the chromosomal amgR promoter increased MgtC and MgtB protein levels and enhanced Salmonella virulence. Surprisingly, AmgR transcription is governed by the regulatory protein PhoP, which also directs transcription of the sense mgtCBR mRNA. AmgR may function as a timing device that alters MgtC and MgtB levels after the onset of PhoP-inducing conditions.
PMCID: PMC2909850  PMID: 20398218
antisense RNA; MgtB; MgtC; PhoP; Salmonella
18.  AcrAB Multidrug Efflux Pump Regulation in Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium by RamA in Response to Environmental Signals* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2008;283(35):24245-24253.
Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium has at least nine multidrug efflux pumps. Among these pumps, AcrAB is effective in generating drug resistance and has wide substrate specificity. Here we report that indole, bile, and an Escherichia coli conditioned medium induced the AcrAB pump in Salmonella through a specific regulator, RamA. The RamA-binding sites were located in the upstream regions of acrAB and tolC. RamA was required for indole induction of acrAB. Other regulators of acrAB such as MarA, SoxS, Rob, SdiA, and AcrR did not contribute to acrAB induction by indole in Salmonella. Indole activated ramA transcription, and overproduction of RamA caused increased acrAB expression. In contrast, induction of ramA was not required for induction of acrAB by bile. Cholic acid binds to RamA, and we suggest that bile acts by altering pre-existing RamA. This points to two different AcrAB regulatory modes through RamA. Our results suggest that RamA controls the Salmonella AcrAB-TolC multidrug efflux system through dual regulatory modes in response to environmental signals.
PMCID: PMC2527123  PMID: 18577510
19.  ompW is cooperatively upregulated by MarA and SoxS in response to menadione 
Microbiology  2013;159(Pt 4):715-725.
OmpW is a minor porin whose biological function has not been clearly defined. Evidence obtained in our laboratory indicates that in Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium the expression of OmpW is activated by SoxS upon exposure to paraquat and it is required for resistance. SoxS belongs to the AraC family of transcriptional regulators, like MarA and Rob. Due to their high structural similarity, the genes under their control have been grouped in the mar/sox/rob regulon, which presents a DNA-binding consensus sequence denominated the marsox box. In this work, we evaluated the role of the transcription factors MarA, SoxS and Rob of S. enterica serovar Typhimurium in regulating ompW expression in response to menadione. We determined the transcript and protein levels of OmpW in different genetic backgrounds; in the wild-type and Δrob strains ompW was upregulated in response to menadione, while in the ΔmarA and ΔsoxS strains the induction was abolished. In a double marA soxS mutant, ompW transcript levels were lowered after exposure to menadione, and only complementation in trans with both genes restored the positive regulation. Using transcriptional fusions and electrophoretic mobility shift assays with mutant versions of the promoter region we demonstrated that two of the predicted sites were functional. Additionally, we demonstrated that MarA increases the affinity of SoxS for the ompW promoter region. In conclusion, our study shows that ompW is upregulated in response to menadione in a cooperative manner by MarA and SoxS through a direct interaction with the promoter region.
PMCID: PMC3709825  PMID: 23393149
20.  A Macrophage Subversion Factor Is Shared by Intracellular and Extracellular Pathogens 
PLoS Pathogens  2015;11(6):e1004969.
Pathogenic bacteria have developed strategies to adapt to host environment and resist host immune response. Several intracellular bacterial pathogens, including Salmonella enterica and Mycobacterium tuberculosis, share the horizontally-acquired MgtC virulence factor that is important for multiplication inside macrophages. MgtC is also found in pathogenic Pseudomonas species. Here we investigate for the first time the role of MgtC in the virulence of an extracellular pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa. A P. aeruginosa mgtC mutant is attenuated in the systemic infection model of zebrafish embryos, and strikingly, the attenuated phenotype is dependent on the presence of macrophages. In ex vivo experiments, the P. aeruginosa mgtC mutant is more sensitive to macrophage killing than the wild-type strain. However, wild-type and mutant strains behave similarly toward macrophage killing when macrophages are treated with an inhibitor of the vacuolar proton ATPase. Importantly, P. aeruginosa mgtC gene expression is strongly induced within macrophages and phagosome acidification contributes to an optimal expression of the gene. Thus, our results support the implication of a macrophage intracellular stage during P. aeruginosa acute infection and suggest that Pseudomonas MgtC requires phagosome acidification to play its intracellular role. Moreover, we demonstrate that P. aeruginosa MgtC is required for optimal growth in Mg2+ deprived medium, a property shared by MgtC factors from intracellular pathogens and, under Mg2+ limitation, P. aeruginosa MgtC prevents biofilm formation. We propose that MgtC shares a similar function in intracellular and extracellular pathogens, which contributes to macrophage resistance and fine-tune adaptation to host immune response in relation to the different bacterial lifestyles. In addition, the phenotypes observed with the mgtC mutant in infection models can be mimicked in wild-type P. aeruginosa strain by producing a MgtC antagonistic peptide, thus highlighting MgtC as a promising new target for anti-virulence strategies.
Author Summary
Pathogenic bacteria have to resist host immune response and MgtC is used by several intracellular pathogens to promote bacterial multiplication inside macrophages. Here we investigated MgtC’s role in the virulence of an extracellular pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa. A P. aeruginosa mgtC mutant is attenuated in zebrafish embryos, but only in the presence of macrophages. Moreover, this mutant is more rapidly killed by macrophages than the wild-type strain. Both phenotypes can be mimicked upon production of a MgtC antagonistic peptide in wild-type Pseudomonas strain. MgtC thus provides a singular example of a virulence determinant that promotes strategies to subvert the antimicrobial behavior of macrophages, in both intracellular and extracellular pathogens and our results support an intramacrophage stage during in P. aeruginosa acute infection, as well as an interplay between MgtC role and phagosome acidification. In addition, P. aeruginosa MgtC is required for growth in Mg2+ deprived medium, a property shared by MgtC factors from intracellular pathogens, and limits biofilm formation. MgtC may share a similar function in intracellular and extracellular pathogens, with an outcome adapted to the different bacterial lifestyles
PMCID: PMC4469704  PMID: 26080006
21.  Transcription Activation by Escherichia coli Rob at Class II Promoters: Protein–Protein Interactions between Rob’s N-Terminal Domain and the σ70 Subunit of RNA Polymerase 
Journal of molecular biology  2012;419(0):139-157.
Bacterial transcription activators regulate transcription by making essential protein–protein interactions with RNA polymerase, for example, with region 4 of the σ70 subunit (σ70 R4). Rob, SoxS, and MarA comprise a closely related subset of members of the AraC/XylS family of transcription factors that activate transcription of both class I and class II promoters. Recently, we showed that interactions between SoxS and σ70 R4 occlude the binding of σ70 R4 to the −35 promoter element of class II promoters. Although Rob shares many similarities with SoxS, it contains a C-terminal domain (CTD) that the other paralogs do not. Thus, a goal of this study was to determine whether Rob makes protein–protein interactions with σ70 R4 at class II promoters and, if so, whether the interactions occlude the binding of σ70 R4 to the −35 hexamer despite the presence of the CTD. We found that although Rob makes fewer interactions with σ70 R4 than SoxS, the two proteins make the same, unusual, position-dependent interactions. Importantly, we found that Rob occludes σ70 R4 from binding the −35 hexamer, just as does SoxS. Thus, the CTD does not substantially alter the way Rob interacts with σ70 R4 at class II promoters. Moreover, in contrast to inferences drawn from the co-crystal structure of Rob bound to robbox DNA, which showed that only one of Rob’s dual helix–turn–helix (HTH) DNA binding motifs binds a recognition element of the promoter’s robbox, we determined that the two HTH motifs each bind a recognition element in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3640845  PMID: 22465792
SoxS; genetic epistasis; σ70 R4; prerecruitment; Rob−micF crystal structure
22.  Different effects of transcriptional regulators MarA, SoxS and Rob on susceptibility of Escherichia coli to cationic antimicrobial peptides (CAMPs): Rob-dependent CAMP induction of the marRAB operon 
Microbiology  2010;156(Pt 2):570-578.
Cationic antimicrobial peptides (CAMPs), a component of the mammalian immune system, protect the host from bacterial infections. The roles of the Escherichia coli transcriptional regulators MarA, SoxS and Rob in susceptibility to these peptides were examined. Overexpression of marA, either in an antibiotic-resistant marR mutant or from a plasmid, decreased bacterial susceptibility to CAMPs. Overexpression of the soxS gene from a plasmid, which decreased susceptibility to antibiotics, unexpectedly caused no decrease in CAMP susceptibility; instead it produced increased susceptibility to different CAMPs. Deletion or overexpression of rob had little effect on CAMP susceptibility. The marRAB operon was upregulated when E. coli was incubated in sublethal amounts of CAMPs polymyxin B, LL-37 or human β-defensin-1; however, this upregulation required Rob. Deletion of acrAB increased bacterial susceptibility to polymyxin B, LL-37 and human β-defensin-1 peptides. Deletion of tolC yielded an even greater increase in susceptibility to these peptides and also led to increased susceptibility to human α-defensin-2. Inhibition of cellular proton-motive force increased peptide susceptibility for wild-type and acrAB deletion strains; however, it decreased susceptibility of tolC mutants. These findings demonstrate that CAMPs are both inducers of marA-mediated drug resistance through interaction with Rob and also substrates for efflux in E. coli. The three related transcriptional regulators show different effects on bacterial cell susceptibility to CAMPs.
PMCID: PMC2890090  PMID: 19926649
23.  Effect of Antimicrobial Exposure on AcrAB Expression in Salmonella enterica Subspecies enterica Serovar Choleraesuis 
Understanding the impact of antimicrobial use on the emergence of resistant bacteria is imperative to prevent its emergence. For instance, activation of the AcrAB efflux pumps is responsible for the emergence of antimicrobial-resistant Salmonella strains. Here, we examined the expression levels of acrB and its multiple regulator genes (RamA, SoxS, MarA, and Rob) in 17 field isolates of S. Choleraesuis by using quantitative PCR methods. The expression of acrB increased in eight of the field isolates (P < 0.05). The expression of acrB was associated with that of ramA in one isolate, soxS in one isolate, and both these genes in six isolates. Thereafter, to examine the effect of selected antimicrobials (enrofloxacin, ampicillin, oxytetracycline, kanamycin, and spectinomycin) on the expression of acrB and its regulator genes, mutants derived from five isolates of S. Choleraesuis were selected by culture on antimicrobial-containing plates. The expression of acrB and ramA was higher in the mutants selected using enrofloxacin (3.3–6.3- and 24.5–37.7-fold, respectively), ampicillin (1.8–7.7- and 16.1–55.9-fold, respectively), oxytetracycline (1.7–3.3- and 3.2–31.1-fold, respectively), and kanamycin (1.6–2.2- and 5.6–26.4-fold, respectively), which are AcrAB substrates, than in each of the parental strains (P < 0.05). In contrast, in AcrAB substrate-selected mutants, the expression of soxS, marA, and rob remained similar to that in parental strains. Of the four antimicrobials, the level of ramA expression was significantly higher in the enrofloxacin- and ampicillin-selected mutants than in the oxytetracycline- and kanamycin-selected mutants (P < 0.05), whereas the expression levels of acrB and multiple regulator genes in spectinomycin-selected mutants were similar to those in each parental strain. These data suggest that exposure to antimicrobials that are AcrAB substrates enhance the activation of the AcrAB efflux pump via RamA, but not via SoxS, MarA, or Rob in S. Choleraesuis.
PMCID: PMC3596762  PMID: 23503095
AcrAB efflux pump; antimicrobial resistance; RamA; Salmonella Choleraesuis; SoxS
24.  Signal Transduction Cascade between EvgA/EvgS and PhoP/PhoQ Two-Component Systems of Escherichia coli 
Journal of Bacteriology  2004;186(10):3006-3014.
Transcriptional analysis of a constitutively active mutant of the EvgA/EvgS two-component system of Escherichia coli resulted in enhanced expression of 13 PhoP/PhoQ-regulated genes, crcA, hemL, mgtA, ompT, phoP, phoQ, proP, rstA, rstB, slyB, ybjG, yrbL, and mgrB. This regulatory network between the two systems also occurred as a result of overproduction of the EvgA regulator; however, enhanced transcription of the phoPQ genes did not further activate expression of the PhoP/PhoQ-regulated genes. These results demonstrated signal transduction from the EvgA/EvgS system to the PhoP/PhoQ system in E. coli and also identified the genes that required the two systems for enhanced expression. This is one example of the intricate signal transduction networks that are posited to exist in E. coli.
PMCID: PMC400602  PMID: 15126461
25.  Two functions of the C-terminal domain of Escherichia coli Rob: mediating “sequestration-dispersal” as a novel off-on switch for regulating Rob’s activity as a transcription activator and preventing degradation of Rob by Lon protease 
Journal of molecular biology  2009;388(3):415-430.
In Escherichia coli, Rob activates transcription of the SoxRS/MarA/Rob regulon. Previous work revealed that Rob resides in 3–4 immunostainable foci, that dipyridyl and bile salts are inducers of its activity, and that inducers bind to Rob’s C-terminal domain (CTD). We propose that sequestration inactivates Rob by blocking its access to the transcriptional machinery and that inducers activate Rob by mediating its dispersal, allowing interaction with RNA polymerase. To test “sequestration-dispersal” as a new mechanism for regulating the activity of transcriptional activators, we fused Rob’s CTD to SoxS and used indirect immunofluorescence microscopy to determine the effect of inducers on SoxS-Rob’s cellular localization. Unlike native SoxS, which is uniformly distributed throughout the cell, SoxS-Rob is sequestered without inducer, but is rapidly dispersed when cells are treated with inducer. In this manner, Rob’s CTD serves as an anti-sigma factor in regulating the co-sigma factor-like activity of SoxS when fused to it. Rob’s CTD also protects its N-terminus from Lon protease, since Lon’s normally rapid degradation of SoxS is blocked in the chimera. Accordingly, Rob’s CTD has novel regulatory properties that can be bestowed on another E. coli protein.
PMCID: PMC2728042  PMID: 19289129
gene regulation; intracellular localization; immunofluorescence microscopy; anti-sigma factor; proteolysis

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