The transcriptional repressor Rex has been implicated in regulation of energy metabolism and fermentative growth in response to redox potential. Streptococcus mutans, the primary causative agent of human dental caries, possesses a gene that encodes a protein with high similarity to members of the Rex family of proteins. In this study, we showed that Rex-deficiency compromised the ability of S. mutans to cope with oxidative stress and to form biofilms. The Rex-deficient mutant also accumulated less biofilm after 3-days than the wild-type strain, especially when grown in sucrose-containing medium, but produced more extracellular glucans than the parental strain. Rex-deficiency caused substantial alterations in gene transcription, including those involved in heterofermentative metabolism, NAD+ regeneration and oxidative stress. Among the up-regulated genes was gtfC, which encodes glucosyltransferase C, an enzyme primarily responsible for synthesis of water-insoluble glucans. These results reveal that Rex plays an important role in oxidative stress responses and biofilm formation by S. mutans.
Redox sensing; oxidative stress; biofilm formation; Streptococcus mutans
Rex factors are bacterial transcription factors thought to respond to the cellular NAD+/NADH ratio in order to modulate gene expression by differentially binding DNA. To date, Rex factors have been implicated in regulating genes of central metabolism, oxidative stress response, and biofilm formation. The genome of Enterococcus faecalis, a low-GC Gram-positive opportunistic pathogen, encodes EF2638, a putative Rex factor. To study the role of E. faecalis Rex, we purified EF2638 and evaluated its DNA binding activity in vitro. EF2638 was able to bind putative promoter segments of several E. faecalis genes in an NADH-responsive manner, indicating that it represents an authentic Rex factor. Transcriptome analysis of a ΔEF2638 mutant revealed that genes likely to be involved in anaerobic metabolism were upregulated during aerobic growth, and the mutant exhibited an altered NAD+/NADH ratio. The ΔEF2638 mutant also exhibited a growth defect when grown with aeration on several carbon sources, suggesting an impaired ability to cope with oxidative stress. Inclusion of catalase in the medium alleviated the growth defect. H2O2 measurements revealed that the mutant accumulates significantly more H2O2 than wild-type E. faecalis. In summary, EF2638 represents an authentic Rex factor in E. faecalis that influences the production or detoxification of H2O2 in addition to its more familiar role as a regulator of anaerobic gene expression.
An alignment of upstream regions of anaerobically induced genes in Staphylococcus aureus revealed the presence of an inverted repeat, corresponding to Rex binding sites in Streptomyces coelicolor. Gel shift experiments of selected upstream regions demonstrated that the redox-sensing regulator Rex of S. aureus binds to this inverted repeat. The binding sequence – TTGTGAAW4TTCACAA – is highly conserved in S. aureus. Rex binding to this sequence leads to the repression of genes located downstream. The binding activity of Rex is enhanced by NAD+ while NADH, which competes with NAD+ for Rex binding, decreases the activity of Rex. The impact of Rex on global protein synthesis and on the activity of fermentation pathways under aerobic and anaerobic conditions was analysed by using a rex-deficient strain. A direct regulatory effect of Rex on the expression of pathways that lead to anaerobic NAD+ regeneration, such as lactate, formate and ethanol formation, nitrate respiration, and ATP synthesis, is verified. Rex can be considered a central regulator of anaerobic metabolism in S. aureus. Since the activity of lactate dehydrogenase enables S. aureus to resist NO stress and thus the innate immune response, our data suggest that deactivation of Rex is a prerequisite for this phenomenon.
Redox-sensing repressor Rex was previously implicated in the control of anaerobic respiration in response to the cellular NADH/NAD+ levels in Gram-positive bacteria. We utilized the comparative genomics approach to infer candidate Rex-binding DNA motifs and assess the Rex regulon content in 119 genomes from 11 taxonomic groups. Both DNA-binding and NAD-sensing domains are broadly conserved in Rex orthologs identified in the phyla Firmicutes, Thermotogales, Actinobacteria, Chloroflexi, Deinococcus-Thermus, and Proteobacteria. The identified DNA-binding motifs showed significant conservation in these species, with the only exception detected in Clostridia, where the Rex motif deviates in two positions from the generalized consensus, TTGTGAANNNNTTCACAA. Comparative analysis of candidate Rex sites revealed remarkable variations in functional repertoires of candidate Rex-regulated genes in various microorganisms. Most of the reconstructed regulatory interactions are lineage specific, suggesting frequent events of gain and loss of regulator binding sites in the evolution of Rex regulons. We identified more than 50 novel Rex-regulated operons encoding functions that are essential for resumption of the NADH:NAD+ balance. The novel functional role of Rex in the control of the central carbon metabolism and hydrogen production genes was validated by in vitro DNA binding assays using the TM0169 protein in the hydrogen-producing bacterium Thermotoga maritima.
NADH dehydrogenase is a key component of the respiratory chain. It catalyzes the oxidation of NADH by transferring electrons to ubiquinone and establishes a proton motive force across the cell membrane. The yjlD (renamed ndh) gene of Bacillus subtilis is predicted to encode an enzyme similar to the NADH dehydrogenase II of Escherichia coli, encoded by the ndh gene. We have shown that the yjlC-ndh operon is negatively regulated by YdiH (renamed Rex), a homolog of Rex in Streptomyces coelicolor, and a redox-sensing transcriptional regulator that responds to the NADH/NAD+ ratio. The ndh gene regulates expression of the yjlC-ndh operon, as indicated by the fact that mutation in ndh causes a higher NADH/NAD+ ratio. An in vitro study showed that Rex binds to the downstream region of the yjlC-ndh promoter and that NAD+ enhances the binding of Rex to the putative Rex-binding sites in the yjlC-ndh operon as well as in the cydABCD operon. These results indicated that Rex and Ndh together form a regulatory loop which functions to prevent a large fluctuation in the NADH/NAD+ ratio in B. subtilis.
The Rex protein of the human T-cell leukemia virus type II (HTLV-II), Rex-II, plays a central role in regulating the expression of the structural genes of this retrovirus. Rex-II acts posttranscriptionally by inducing the cytoplasmic expression of the incompletely spliced viral mRNAs that encode the Gag and Env structural proteins and the enzymes derived from the pol gene. We now define a 295-nucleotide cis-acting regulatory element within the 3' long terminal repeat of HTLV-II that is required for the effects of Rex-II. This Rex-II response element (RexIIRE) corresponds to a predicted, highly stable RNA secondary structure and functions when present in the sense but not in the antisense orientation. The RexIIRE confers responsiveness not only to Rex-II but also to the Rex protein of HTLV-I. Deletion and substitution mutagenesis of the RexIIRE permitted identification of a small subregion within the larger element critically required for Rex-II responsiveness and further suggested that the structurally distinct RexIIREs generated from the 5' and 3' long terminal repeats of HTLV-II may differentially regulate the cytoplasmic expression of unspliced gag-pol and singly spliced env mRNAs. While the Rev protein of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 fails to function via the RexIIRE, the Rex-II protein, like Rex-I, can functionally replace the Rev protein of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 via its interaction with the Rev response element (RevRE).
Lactate Dehydrogenase 1 (Ldh1) is a key enzyme involved in Staphylococcus aureus NO·-resistance. Full ldh1-induction requires the presence of glucose, and mutants lacking the Carbon-Catabolite Protein (CcpA) exhibit decreased ldh1 transcription and diminished Ldh1 activity. The redox-regulator Rex represses ldh1 directly by binding to Rex-sites within the ldh1 promoter (Pldh1). In the absence of Rex, neither glucose nor CcpA affect ldh1 expression implying that glucose/CcpA-mediated activation requires Rex activity. Rex-mediated repression of ldh1 depends on cellular redox status and is maximal when NADH levels are low. However, compared to WT cells, the ΔccpA mutant exhibited impaired redox balance with relatively high NADH levels, yet ldh1 was still poorly expressed. Furthermore, CcpA did not drastically alter Rex transcript levels, nor did glucose or CcpA affect the expression of other Rex-regulated genes indicating that the glucose/CcpA effect is specific for Pldh1. A putative catabolite response element (CRE) is located ∼30 bp upstream of the promoter-distal Rex-binding site in Pldh1. However, CcpA had no affinity for Pldh1
in vitro and a genomic mutation of CRE upstream of Pldh1 in S. aureus had no affect on Ldh1 expression in vivo. In contrast to WT, ΔccpA S. aureus preferentially consumes non-glycolytic carbon sources. However when grown in defined medium with glucose as the primary carbon source, ΔccpA mutants express high levels of Ldh1 compared to growth in media devoid of glucose. Thus, the actual consumption of glucose stimulates Ldh1 expression rather than direct CcpA interaction at Pldh1.
The Rex protein is an essential regulator of RNA expression in human T-cell leukemia virus types 1 and 2 (HTLV-1 and HTLV-2) that promotes the accumulation of full-length and partially spliced viral transcripts in the cytoplasm. Rex-mediated regulation correlates with specific binding to a cognate RNA recognition element which overlaps the 5' splice site in the viral long terminal repeat. It has been unclear whether Rex directly affects splicing or only nuclear-to-cytoplasmic transport of viral mRNA. We demonstrate that HTLV-2 Rex is a potent inhibitor of splicing in vitro at an early step in spliceosome assembly. Inhibition requires phosphorylation of Rex and the ability of Rex to bind to the Rex response element. Direct inhibition of early spliceosome assembly by Rex may account for differential accumulation of unspliced transcripts and represents a novel mechanism of retroviral gene regulation.
Phosphatidylinositol (3,4,5)-trisphosphate-dependent Rac Exchanger 2 (P-Rex2) is a guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF) that specifically activates Rac GTPases, important regulators of actin cytoskeleton remodeling. P-Rex2 is known to modulate cerebellar Purkinje cell architecture and function, but P-Rex2 expression and function elsewhere in the central nervous system is unclear. To better understand potential roles for P-Rex2 in neuronal cytoskeletal remodeling and function, we performed widefield and confocal microscopy of specimens double immunolabeled for P-Rex2 and cell- and synapse-specific markers in the mouse retina.
P-Rex2 was restricted to the plexiform layers of the retina and colocalized extensively with Vesicular Glutamate Transporter 1 (VGluT1), a specific marker for photoreceptor and bipolar cell terminals. Double labeling for P-Rex2 and peanut agglutinin, a cone terminal marker, confirmed that P-Rex2 was present in both rod and cone terminals. Double labeling with markers for specific bipolar cell types showed that P-Rex2 was present in the terminals of rod bipolar cells and multiple ON- and OFF-cone bipolar cell types. In contrast, P-Rex2 was not expressed in the processes or conventional synapses of amacrine or horizontal cells.
P-Rex2 is associated specifically with the glutamatergic ribbon synaptic terminals of photoreceptors and bipolar cells that transmit visual signals vertically through the retina. The Rac-GEF function of P-Rex2 implies a specific role for P-Rex2 and Rac-GTPases in regulating the actin cytoskeleton in glutamatergic ribbon synaptic terminals of retinal photoreceptors and bipolar cells and appears to be ideally positioned to modulate the adaptive plasticity of these terminals.
Photoreceptor; Bipolar cell; Cytoskeleton; GEF; Rac GTPase; Actin
The Rex trans-regulatory protein of human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) is required for the nuclear export of incompletely spliced and unspliced viral mRNAs and is therefore essential for virus replication. Rex is a nuclear phosphoprotein that directly binds to its cis-acting Rex response element RNA target sequence and constantly shuttles between the nucleus and cytoplasm. Moreover, Rex induces nuclear accumulation of unspliced viral RNA. Three protein domains which mediate nuclear import-RNA binding, nuclear export, and Rex oligomerization have been mapped within the 189-amino-acid Rex polypeptide. Here we identified a different region in the carboxy-terminal half of Rex which is also required for biological activity. In inactive mutants with mutations that map within this region, as well as in mutants that are deficient in Rex-specific multimerization, Rex trans activation could be reconstituted by fusion to a heterologous leucine zipper dimerization interface. The intracellular trafficking capabilities of wild-type and mutant Rex proteins reveal that biologically inactive and multimerization-deficient Rex mutants are still efficiently translocated from the nucleus to the cytoplasm. This observation indicates that multimerization is essential for Rex function but is not required for nuclear export. Finally, we are able to provide an improved model of the HTLV-1 Rex domain structure.
Streptococcus mutans, the predominant bacterial species associated with dental caries, can enter the bloodstream and cause infective endocarditis. The aim of this study was to investigate S. mutans biofilm formation and adherence to endothelial cells induced by human fibrinogen. The putative mechanism by which biofilm formation is induced as well as the impact of fibrinogen on S. mutans resistance to penicillin was also evaluated. Bovine plasma dose dependently induced biofilm formation by S. mutans. Of the various plasma proteins tested, only fibrinogen promoted the formation of biofilm in a dose-dependent manner. Scanning electron microscopy observations revealed the presence of complex aggregates of bacterial cells firmly attached to the polystyrene support. S. mutans in biofilms induced by the presence of fibrinogen was markedly resistant to the bactericidal effect of penicillin. Fibrinogen also significantly increased the adherence of S. mutans to endothelial cells. Neither S. mutans cells nor culture supernatants converted fibrinogen into fibrin. However, fibrinogen is specifically bound to the cell surface of S. mutans and may act as a bridging molecule to mediate biofilm formation. In conclusion, our study identified a new mechanism promoting S. mutans biofilm formation and adherence to endothelial cells which may contribute to infective endocarditis.
The complete genome sequence of Streptococcus mutans, a bacterial pathogen commonly associated with human dental caries, was published in 2002. The streamlined genome (2.03Mb) revealed an organism that was well adapted to its obligately host-associated existence in multispecies biofilms on tooth surfaces; a dynamic environment that undergoes rapid and substantial environmental fluctuations. However, S. mutans lacks many of the sensing systems and alternative sigma factors that bacteria often use to coordinate gene expression in response to stress and changes in their environment. Over the past seven years, functional genomics and proteomics have enhanced our understanding of how S. mutans has integrated the stress regulon and global transcriptional regulators to integrate responses to environmental fluctuations with modulation of virulence in a way that ensures persistence in the oral cavity and capitalizes on conditions that are favorable for the development of dental caries. Here, we highlight advances on dissection of the stress regulon of S. mutans and its intimate interrelationship with pathogenesis.
The combination of sucrose and starch in the presence of surface-adsorbed salivary α-amylase and bacterial glucosyltransferases increase the formation of a structurally and metabolically distinctive biofilm by Streptococcus mutans. This host-pathogen-diet interaction may modulate the formation of pathogenic biofilms related to dental caries disease. We conducted a comprehensive study to further investigate the influence of the dietary carbohydrates on S. mutans-transcriptome at distinct stages of biofilm development using whole genomic profiling with a new computational tool (MDV) for data mining. S. mutans UA159 biofilms were formed on amylase-active saliva coated hydroxyapatite discs in the presence of various concentrations of sucrose alone (ranging from 0.25 to 5% w/v) or in combination with starch (0.5 to 1% w/v). Overall, the presence of sucrose and starch (suc+st) influenced the dynamics of S. mutans transcriptome (vs. sucrose alone), which may be associated with gradual digestion of starch by surface-adsorbed amylase. At 21 h of biofilm formation, most of the differentially expressed genes were related to sugar metabolism, such as upregulation of genes involved in maltose/maltotriose uptake and glycogen synthesis. In addition, the groEL/groES chaperones were induced in the suc+st-biofilm, indicating that presence of starch hydrolysates may cause environmental stress. In contrast, at 30 h of biofilm development, multiple genes associated with sugar uptake/transport (e.g. maltose), two-component systems, fermentation/glycolysis and iron transport were differentially expressed in suc+st-biofilms (vs. sucrose-biofilms). Interestingly, lytT (bacteria autolysis) was upregulated, which was correlated with presence of extracellular DNA in the matrix of suc+st-biofilms. Specific genes related to carbohydrate uptake and glycogen metabolism were detected in suc+st-biofilms in more than one time point, indicating an association between presence of starch hydrolysates and intracellular polysaccharide storage. Our data show complex remodeling of S. mutans-transcriptome in response to changing environmental conditions in situ, which could modulate the dynamics of biofilm development and pathogenicity.
The virulence of the dental caries pathogen Streptococcus mutans relies in part on the sucrose-dependent synthesis of and interaction with glucan, a major component of the extracellular matrix of tooth biofilms. However, the mechanisms by which secreted and/or cell-associated glucan-binding proteins (Gbps) produced by S. mutans participate in biofilm growth remain to be elucidated. In this study, we further investigate GbpB, an essential immunodominant protein with similarity to murein hydrolases. A conditional knockdown mutant that expressed gbpB antisense RNA under the control of a tetracycline-inducible promoter was constructed in strain UA159 (UACA2) and used to investigate the effects of GbpB depletion on biofilm formation and cell surface-associated characteristics. Additionally, regulation of gbpB by the two-component system VicRK was investigated, and phenotypic analysis of a vicK mutant (UAvicK) was performed. GbpB was directly regulated by VicR, and several phenotypic changes were comparable between UACA2 and UAvicK, although differences between these strains existed. It was established that GbpB depletion impaired initial phases of sucrose-dependent biofilm formation, while exogenous native GbpB partially restored the biofilm phenotype. Several cellular traits were significantly affected by GbpB depletion, including altered cell shape, decreased autolysis, increased cell hydrophobicity, and sensitivity to antibiotics and osmotic and oxidative stresses. These data provide the first experimental evidence for GbpB participation in sucrose-dependent biofilm formation and in cell surface properties.
In Streptococcus mutans, the global response regulator CovR plays an important role in biofilm formation, stress-tolerance response, and caries production. We have previously shown that CovR acts as a transcriptional repressor by binding to the upstream promoter regions of its target genes. Here, we report that in vivo, CovR activates the transcription of SMU.1882, which encodes a small peptide containing a double-glycine motif. We also show that SMU.1882 is transcriptionally linked to comA that encodes a putative ABC transporter protein. Several genes from man gene clusters that encode mannose phosphotranferase system flank SMU.1882 -comA genes. Genomic comparison with other streptococci indicates that SMU.1882 is uniquely present in S. mutans, while the man operon is conserved among all streptococci, suggesting that a genetic rearrangement might have taken place at this locus. With the use of a transcriptional reporter system and semi-quantitative RT-PCR, we demonstrated the transcriptional regulation of SMU.1882 by CovR. In vitro gel shift and DNase I foot-printing analyses with purified CovR suggest that CovR binds to a large region surrounding the -10 region of the P1882. Using this information and comparing with other CovR regulated promoters, we have developed a putative consensus binding sequence for CovR. Although CovR binds to P1882, in vitro experiments using purified S. mutans RpoD, E. coli RNA polymerase, and CovR did not activate transcription from this promoter. Thus, we speculate that in vivo, CovR may interfere with the binding of a repressor or requires a cofactor.
Maintaining cell envelope integrity is critical for bacterial survival, including bacteria living in a complex and dynamic environment such as the human oral cavity. Streptococcus mutans, a major etiological agent of dental caries, uses two-component signal transduction systems (TCSTSs) to monitor and respond to various environmental stimuli. Previous studies have shown that the LiaSR TCSTS in S. mutans regulates virulence traits such as acid tolerance and biofilm formation. Although not examined in streptococci, homologs of LiaSR are widely disseminated in Firmicutes and function as part of the cell envelope stress response network. We describe here liaSR and its upstream liaF gene in the cell envelope stress tolerance of S. mutans strain UA159. Transcriptional analysis established liaSR as part of the pentacistronic liaFSR-ppiB-pnpB operon. A survey of cell envelope antimicrobials revealed that mutants deficient in one or all of the liaFSR genes were susceptible to Lipid II cycle interfering antibiotics and to chemicals that perturbed the cell membrane integrity. These compounds induced liaR transcription in a concentration-dependent manner. Notably, under bacitracin stress conditions, the LiaFSR signaling system was shown to induce transcription of several genes involved in membrane protein synthesis, peptidoglycan biosynthesis, envelope chaperone/proteases, and transcriptional regulators. In the absence of an inducer such as bacitracin, LiaF repressed LiaR-regulated expression, whereas supplementing cultures with bacitracin resulted in derepression of liaSR. While LiaF appears to be an integral component of the LiaSR signaling cascade, taken collectively, we report a novel role for LiaFSR in sensing cell envelope stress and preserving envelope integrity in S. mutans.
The cydABCD operon of Bacillus subtilis encodes products required for the production of cytochrome bd oxidase. Previous work has shown that one regulatory protein, YdiH (Rex), is involved in the repression of this operon. The work reported here confirms the role of Rex in the negative regulation of the cydABCD operon. Two additional regulatory proteins for the cydABCD operon were identified, namely, ResD, a response regulator involved in the regulation of respiration genes, and CcpA, the carbon catabolite regulator protein. ResD, but not ResE, was required for full expression of the cydA promoter in vivo. ResD binding to the cydA promoter between positions −58 and −107, a region which includes ResD consensus binding sequences, was not enhanced by phosphorylation. A ccpA mutant had increased expression from the full-length cydA promoter during stationary growth compared to the wild-type strain. Maximal expression in a ccpA mutant was observed from a 3′-deleted cydA promoter fusion that lacked the Rex binding region, suggesting that the effect of the two repressors, Rex and CcpA, was cumulative. CcpA binds directly to the cydA promoter, protecting the region from positions −4 to −33, which contains sequences similar to the CcpA consensus binding sequence, the cre box. CcpA binding was enhanced upon addition of glucose-6-phosphate, a putative cofactor for CcpA. Mutation of a conserved residue in the cre box reduced CcpA binding 10-fold in vitro and increased cydA expression in vivo. Thus, CcpA and ResD, along with the previously identified cydA regulator Rex (YdiH), affect the expression of the cydABCD operon. Low-level induction of the cydA promoter was observed in vivo in the absence of its regulatory proteins, Rex, CcpA, and ResD. This complex regulation suggests that the cydA promoter is tightly regulated to allow its expression only at the appropriate time and under the appropriate conditions.
Streptococcus mutans normally colonizes dental biofilms and is regularly exposed to continual cycles of acidic pH during ingestion of fermentable dietary carbohydrates. The ability of S. mutans to survive at low pH is an important virulence factor in the pathogenesis of dental caries. Despite a few studies of the acid adaptation mechanism of this organism, little work has focused on the acid tolerance of S. mutans growing in high-cell-density biofilms. It is unknown whether biofilm growth mode or high cell density affects acid adaptation by S. mutans. This study was initiated to examine the acid tolerance response (ATR) of S. mutans biofilm cells and to determine the effect of cell density on the induction of acid adaptation. S. mutans BM71 cells were first grown in broth cultures to examine acid adaptation associated with growth phase, cell density, carbon starvation, and induction by culture filtrates. The cells were also grown in a chemostat-based biofilm fermentor for biofilm formation. Adaptation of biofilm cells to low pH was established in the chemostat by the acid generated from excess glucose metabolism, followed by a pH 3.5 acid shock for 3 h. Both biofilm and planktonic cells were removed to assay percentages of survival. The results showed that S. mutans BM71 exhibited a log-phase ATR induced by low pH and a stationary-phase acid resistance induced by carbon starvation. Cell density was found to modulate acid adaptation in S. mutans log-phase cells, since pre-adapted cells at a higher cell density or from a dense biofilm displayed significantly higher resistance to the killing pH than the cells at a lower cell density. The log-phase ATR could also be induced by a neutralized culture filtrate collected from a low-pH culture, suggesting that the culture filtrate contained an extracellular induction component(s) involved in acid adaptation in S. mutans. Heat or proteinase treatment abolished the induction by the culture filtrate. The results also showed that mutants defective in the comC, -D, or -E genes, which encode a quorum sensing system essential for cell density-dependent induction of genetic competence, had a diminished log-phase ATR. Addition of synthetic competence stimulating peptide (CSP) to the comC mutant restored the ATR. This study demonstrated that cell density and biofilm growth mode modulated acid adaptation in S. mutans, suggesting that optimal development of acid adaptation in this organism involves both low pH induction and cell-cell communication.
The biofilm-forming Streptococcus mutans is a gram-positive bacterium that resides in the human oral cavity and is considered to be the primary etiological agent in the formation of dental caries. The global response regulator CovR, which lacks a cognate sensor kinase, is essential for the pathogenesis and biofilm formation of this bacterium, but it is not clear how covR expression is regulated in S. mutans. In this communication, we present the results of our studies examining various factors that regulate the expression of covR in S. mutans UA159. The results of Southern hybridization and PCR analysis indicated that CovR is an orphan response regulator in various isolates of S. mutans. The transcriptional start site for covR was found to be 221 base pairs upstream of the ATG start codon, and site-directed mutagenesis of the upstream TATAAT box confirmed our findings. The expression of covR is growth phase dependent, with maximal expression observed during exponential-growth phase. While changes to the growth temperature did not significantly affect the expression of covR, increasing the pH or the concentration of Mg2+ in the growth medium leads to an increase in covR expression. The results of semiquantitative reverse transcriptase PCR analysis and in vivo transcriptional-fusion reporter assays indicated that CovR autoregulates its own expression; this was verified by the results of electrophoretic mobility shift assays and DNase I protection assays, which demonstrated direct binding of CovR to the promoter region. Apparently, regulation by Mg2+ and the autoregulation of covR are not linked. A detailed analysis of the regulation of CovR may lead to a better understanding of the pathogenesis of S. mutans, as well as providing further insight into the prevention of dental caries.
Streptococcus mutans, a major oral pathogen responsible for dental caries formation, possesses a variety of mechanisms for survival in the human oral cavity, where the conditions of the external environment are diverse and in a constant state of flux. The formation of biofilms, survival under conditions of acidic pH, and production of mutacins are considered to be important virulence determinants displayed by this organism. Biofilm formation is facilitated by the production of GbpC, an important cell surface-associated protein that binds to glucan, an adhesive polysaccharide produced by the organism itself. To better understand the nature of the environmental cues that induce GbpC production, we examined the roles of 14 sensor kinases in the expression of gbpC in S. mutans strain UA159. We found that only the LiaS sensor kinase regulates gbpC expression, while the other sensor kinases had little or no effect on gbpC expression. We also found that while LiaS negatively regulates gbpC expression, the inactivation of its cognate response regulator, LiaR, does not appear to affect the expression of gbpC. Since both gbpC expression and mutacin IV production are regulated by a common regulatory network, we also tested the effect of the liaS mutation on mutacin production and found that LiaS positively regulates mutacin IV production. Furthermore, reverse transcription-PCR analysis suggests that LiaS does so by regulating the expression of nlmA, which encodes a peptide component of mutacin IV, and nlmT, which encodes an ABC transporter. As with the expression of gbpC, LiaR did not have any apparent effect on mutacin IV production. Based on the results of our study, we speculate that LiaS is engaged in cross talk with one or more response regulators belonging to the same family as LiaR, enabling LiaS to regulate the expression of several genes coding for virulence factors.
Streptococcus mutans, the primary etiological agent of human dental caries, is an obligate biofilm-forming bacterium. The goals of this study were to identify the gene(s) required for biofilm formation by this organism and to elucidate the role(s) that some of the known global regulators of gene expression play in controlling biofilm formation. In S. mutans UA159, the brpA gene (for biofilm regulatory protein) was found to encode a novel protein of 406 amino acid residues. A strain carrying an insertionally inactivated copy of brpA formed longer chains than did the parental strain, aggregated in liquid culture, and was unable to form biofilms as shown by an in vitro biofilm assay. A putative homologue of the enzyme responsible for synthesis of autoinducer II (AI-2) of the bacterial quorum-sensing system was also identified in S. mutans UA159, but insertional inactivation of the gene (luxSSm) did not alter colony or cell morphology or diminish the capacity of S. mutans to form biofilms. We also examined the role of the homologue of the Bacillus subtilis catabolite control protein CcpA in S. mutans in biofilm formation, and the results showed that loss of CcpA resulted in about a 60% decrease in the ability to form biofilms on an abiotic surface. From these data, we conclude that CcpA and BrpA may regulate genes that are required for stable biofilm formation by S. mutans.
The abilities of Streptococcus mutans to form biofilms and to survive acidic pH are regarded as two important virulence determinants in the pathogenesis of dental caries. Environmental stimuli are thought to regulate the expression of several genes associated with virulence factors through the activity of two-component signal transduction systems. Yet, little is known of the involvement of these systems in the physiology and pathogenicity of S. mutans. In this study, we describe a two-component regulatory system and its involvement in biofilm formation and acid resistance in S. mutans. By searching the S. mutans genome database with tblastn with the HK03 and RR03 protein sequences from S. pneumoniae as queries, we identified two genes, designated hk11 and rr11, that encode a putative histidine kinase and its cognate response regulator. To gain insight into their function, a PCR-mediated allelic-exchange mutagenesis strategy was used to create the hk11 (Emr) and rr11 (Emr) deletion mutants from S. mutans wild-type NG8 named SMHK11 and SMRR11, respectively. The mutants were examined for their growth rates, genetic competence, ability to form biofilms, and resistance to low-pH challenge. The results showed that deletion of hk11 or rr11 resulted in defects in biofilm formation and resistance to acidic pH. Both mutants formed biofilms with reduced biomass (50 to 70% of the density of the parent strain). Scanning electron microscopy revealed that the biofilms formed by the mutants had sponge-like architecture with what appeared to be large gaps that resembled water channel-like structures. The mutant biofilms were composed of longer chains of cells than those of the parent biofilm. Deletion of hk11 also resulted in greatly diminished resistance to low pH, although we did not observe the same effect when rr11 was deleted. Genetic competence was not affected in either mutant. The results suggested that the gene product of hk11 in S. mutans might act as a pH sensor that could cross talk with one or more response regulators. We conclude that the two-component signal transduction system encoded by hk11 and rr11 represents a new regulatory system involved in biofilm formation and acid resistance in S. mutans.
The message for the zinc finger gene Rex-1 (Zfp-42) is expressed in undifferentiated murine F9 teratocarcinoma cells and embryonic stem cells. Expression of Rex-1 is reduced at the transcriptional level when F9 cells are induced by the addition of retinoic acid (RA) to differentiate. We have isolated genomic DNA for the Rex-1 gene (Zfp-42), characterized the gene's structure, and mapped the gene to mouse chromosome 8. Promoter elements contributing to the regulation of the Rex-1 promoter in F9 cells have been identified. A region required for Rex-1 promoter activity in F9 stem cells contains an octamer motif (ATTTGCAT) which is a binding site for octamer transcription factor members of the POU domain family of DNA-binding proteins. Rex-1 reporter plasmids including this octamer site also exhibited reduced expression in F9 cells treated with RA. Thus, the octamer motif is a regulatory element required for the activity of the Rex-1 promoter in F9 stem cells, and this motif contributes to the negative regulation by RA of the transcription of the Rex-1 gene. As an initial confirmation of the in vivo relevance of the isolated fragment, a larger Rex-1 promoter fragment, also containing the octamer site, was able to promote expression of the bacterial lacZ gene in mouse embryos at the morula stage.
The human T-cell leukemia viruses (HTLVs) encode a trans-regulatory protein, Rex, which differentially regulates viral gene expression by controlling the cytoplasmic accumulation of viral mRNAs. Because of insufficient amounts of purified protein, biochemical characterization of Rex activity has not previously been performed. Here, utilizing the baculovirus expression system, we purified HTLV type II (HTLV-II) Rex from the cytoplasmic fraction of recombinant baculovirus-infected insect cells by heparin-agarose chromatography. We directly demonstrated that Rex specifically bound HTLV-II 5' long terminal repeat RNA in both gel mobility shift and immunobinding assays. Sequences sufficient for Rex binding were localized to the R-U5 region of the HTLV-II 5' long terminal repeat and correlate with the region required for Rex function. The human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), has an analogous regulatory protein, Rev, which directly binds to and mediates its action through the Rev-responsive element located within the HIV-1 env gene. We demonstrated that HTLV-II Rex rescued an HIV-1JR-CSF Rev-deficient mutant, although inefficiently. This result is consistent with a weak binding activity to the HIV-1 Rev-responsive element under conditions in which it efficiently bound the HTLV-II long terminal repeat RNA.
Human T-cell leukemia virus type I (HTLV-I) encodes a 27-kDa trans-acting gene product (Rex) which is involved in the regulated expression of transcripts coding for the viral structural proteins. We used oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis to generate a series of mutant HTLV-I rex genes. Transient expression experiments demonstrated that 3 of 28 mutant proteins are functionally inactive on the homologous HTLV-I rex response element, whereas an additional 2 mutant proteins are functionally inactive on the heterologous human immunodeficiency virus type 1 rev response element. One of these mutants is able to suppress the function of the wild-type HTLV-I Rex protein in trans on the homologous rex response element sequence. Furthermore, all of these mutants are able to inhibit Rex function on the heterologous rev response element sequence. Intriguingly, only three of these mutants are able to inhibit the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 Rev protein in a dominant-negative manner.