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1.  The Agr Quorum-Sensing System Regulates Fibronectin Binding but Not Hemolysis in the Absence of a Functional Electron Transport Chain 
Infection and Immunity  2014;82(10):4337-4347.
Staphylococcus aureus is responsible for numerous chronic and recurrent infections, which are frequently associated with the emergence of small-colony variants (SCVs) that lack a functional electron transport chain. SCVs exhibit enhanced expression of fibronectin-binding protein (FnBP) and greatly reduced hemolysin production, although the basis for this is unclear. One hypothesis is that these phenotypes are a consequence of the reduced Agr activity of SCVs, while an alternative is that the lack of a functional electron transport chain and the resulting reduction in ATP production are responsible. Disruption of the electron transport chain of S. aureus genetically (hemB and menD) or chemically, using 2-n-heptyl-4-hydroxyquinoline N-oxide (HQNO), inhibited both growth and Agr activity and conferred an SCV phenotype. Supplementation of the culture medium with synthetic autoinducing peptide (sAIP) significantly increased Agr expression in both hemB mutant strains and S. aureus grown with HQNO and significantly reduced staphylococcal adhesion to fibronectin. However, sAIP did not promote hemolysin expression in hemB mutant strains or S. aureus grown with HQNO. Therefore, while Agr regulates fibronectin binding in SCVs, it cannot promote hemolysin production in the absence of a functional electron transport chain.
PMCID: PMC4187888  PMID: 25092909
2.  Systematic mutational analysis of the LytTR DNA binding domain of Staphylococcus aureus virulence gene transcription factor AgrA 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(20):12523-12536.
Most DNA-binding bacterial transcription factors contact DNA through a recognition α-helix in their DNA-binding domains. An emerging class of DNA-binding transcription factors, predominantly found in pathogenic bacteria interact with the DNA via a relatively novel type of DNA-binding domain, called the LytTR domain, which mainly comprises β strands. Even though the crystal structure of the LytTR domain of the virulence gene transcription factor AgrA from Staphylococcus aureus bound to its cognate DNA sequence is available, the contribution of specific amino acid residues in the LytTR domain of AgrA to transcription activation remains elusive. Here, for the first time, we have systematically investigated the role of amino acid residues in transcription activation in a LytTR domain-containing transcription factor. Our analysis, which involves in vivo and in vitro analyses and molecular dynamics simulations of S. aureus AgrA identifies a highly conserved tyrosine residue, Y229, as a major amino acid determinant for maximal activation of transcription by AgrA and provides novel insights into structure–function relationships in S. aureus AgrA.
PMCID: PMC4227749  PMID: 25352558
3.  A non-bacterial transcription factor inhibits bacterial transcription by a multipronged mechanism 
RNA Biology  2013;10(4):495-501.
The process of transcription initiation is the major target for regulation of gene expression in bacteria and is performed by a multi-subunit RNA polymerase enzyme (RNAp). A complex network of regulatory elements controls the activity of the RNAp to fine-tune transcriptional output. Thus, RNAp is a nexus for controlling bacterial gene expression at the transcription level. Many bacteriophages, viruses that infect bacteria, encode transcription factors that specifically target and modulate the activity of the host RNAp and, thereby, facilitate the acquisition of the host bacteria by the phage. Here, we describe the modus operandi of a T7 bacteriophage-encoded small protein called Gp2 and define Gp2 as a non-bacterial regulator of bacterial transcription.
PMCID: PMC3710356  PMID: 23558648
Gp2; RNA polymerase; T7 inhibition; bacterial transcription regulation; bacteriophage; σ factor
4.  Structural and Mechanistic Basis for the Inhibition of Escherichia coli RNA Polymerase by T7 Gp2 
Molecular Cell  2012;47(5):755-766.
The T7 phage-encoded small protein Gp2 is a non-DNA-binding transcription factor that interacts with the jaw domain of the Escherichia coli (Ec) RNA polymerase (RNAp) β′ subunit and inhibits transcriptionally proficient promoter-complex (RPo) formation. Here, we describe the high-resolution solution structure of the Gp2-Ec β′ jaw domain complex and show that Gp2 and DNA compete for binding to the β′ jaw domain. We reveal that efficient inhibition of RPo formation by Gp2 requires the amino-terminal σ70 domain region 1.1 (R1.1), and that Gp2 antagonizes the obligatory movement of R1.1 during RPo formation. We demonstrate that Gp2 inhibits RPo formation not just by steric occlusion of the RNAp-DNA interaction but also through long-range antagonistic effects on RNAp-promoter interactions around the RNAp active center that likely occur due to repositioning of R1.1 by Gp2. The inhibition of Ec RNAp by Gp2 thus defines a previously uncharacterized mechanism by which bacterial transcription is regulated by a viral factor.
► The structure of the T7 transcription factor Gp2-E. coli RNAp β′jaw domain complex is described ► Gp2 and DNA compete for overlapping interaction surface on the β′ jaw domain ► Gp2 requires σ70 region 1.1 to inhibit the E. coli RNAp efficiently ► Gp2 inhibits the obligatory displacement of σ70 region 1.1
PMCID: PMC3778932  PMID: 22819324
5.  The Lupus Family Registry and Repository 
Rheumatology (Oxford, England)  2010;50(1):47-59.
The Lupus Family Registry and Repository (LFRR) was established with the goal of assembling and distributing materials and data from families with one or more living members diagnosed with SLE, in order to address SLE genetics. In the present article, we describe the problems and solutions of the registry design and biometric data gathering; the protocols implemented to guarantee data quality and protection of participant privacy and consent; and the establishment of a local and international network of collaborators. At the same time, we illustrate how the LFRR has enabled progress in lupus genetics research, answering old scientific questions while laying out new challenges in the elucidation of the biologic mechanisms that underlie disease pathogenesis. Trained staff ascertain SLE cases, unaffected family members and population-based controls, proceeding in compliance with the relevant laws and standards; participant consent and privacy are central to the LFRR’s effort. Data, DNA, serum, plasma, peripheral blood and transformed B-cell lines are collected and stored, and subject to strict quality control and safety measures. Coded data and materials derived from the registry are available for approved scientific users. The LFRR has contributed to the discovery of most of the 37 genetic associations now known to contribute to lupus through 104 publications. The LFRR contains 2618 lupus cases from 1954 pedigrees that are being studied by 76 approved users and their collaborators. The registry includes difficult to obtain populations, such as multiplex pedigrees, minority patients and affected males, and constitutes the largest collection of lupus pedigrees in the world. The LFRR is a useful resource for the discovery and characterization of genetic associations in SLE.
PMCID: PMC3307518  PMID: 20864496
Systemic lupus erythematosus; Registry; Repository; Autoimmune diseases; Genetics; Heritability; Genome-wide association studies; Linkage analysis; Minorities; Women
6.  Assessment of Cardiac Iron by MRI Susceptometry and R2* in Patients with Thalassemia 
Magnetic resonance imaging  2010;28(3):363-371.
An MRI cardiac magnetic susceptometry (MRI-CS) technique for assessing cardiac tissue iron concentration based on phase mapping was developed. Normal control subjects (n=9) and thalassemia patients (n = 13) receiving long-term blood transfusion therapy underwent MRI-CS and MRI measurements of the cardiac relaxation rate R2*. Using MRI-CS, subepicardium and subendocardium iron concentrations were quantified exploiting the hemosiderin/ferritin iron specific magnetic susceptibility. The average of subepicardium and subendocardium iron concentrations and R2* of the septum were found to be strongly correlated (r=0.96, p<0.0001), and linear regression analysis yielded CIC (μg Fe/g wet tissue) = (6.4 ± 0.4) · R2* septum (s-1) - (120 ± 40). The results demonstrated that septal R2* indeed measures cardiac iron level.
PMCID: PMC2839041  PMID: 20061110
iron overload; heart; thalassemia; magnetic susceptibility; R2*; MRI
7.  Transcriptional downregulation of agr expression in Staphylococcus aureus during growth in human serum can be overcome by constitutively active mutant forms of the sensor kinase AgrC 
Fems Microbiology Letters  2013;349(2):153-162.
The temporal and cell density-dependent regulation of expression of virtually all the Staphylococcus aureus virulon is under the control of the agr (accessory gene regulatory) operon. The expression of the agr operon is subject to transcriptional regulation by the AgrA/C two-component response regulator/sensor kinase pair. During bacteraemia, a frequent syndrome caused by methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), the transcriptional downregulation of agr expression has been attributed to the sequestration of the quorum-signalling molecule auto-inducing peptide (AIP) by the human serum component apolipoprotein B as part of an innate immune response to infection. However, it is not known whether transcriptional downregulation of agr expression during growth in human serum is additionally subjected to regulation by transcription regulatory proteins that either directly or indirectly affect transcription from the agr operon promoters. Here, using chromosomal fluorescence reporters of agr expression in S. aureus, we show that the transcriptional downregulation of agr expression in human serum can be overcome using constitutive active mutant forms of AgrC. Therefore, it seems that the sequestration of the AIP is likely to be the only mechanism by which the host innate immune response limits agr expression at the transcriptional level to maintain the host–pathogen balance towards a noninvasive outcome.
PMCID: PMC4274972  PMID: 24164684
transcription regulation; GFP transcriptional reporters; two-component systems
8.  Regulation of the co-evolved HrpR and HrpS AAA+ proteins required for Pseudomonas syringae pathogenicity 
Nature Communications  2011;2:177-.
The bacterial AAA+ enhancer-binding proteins (EBPs) HrpR and HrpS (HrpRS) of Pseudomonas syringae (Ps) activate σ54-dependent transcription at the hrpL promoter; triggering type-three secretion system-mediated pathogenicity. In contrast with singly acting EBPs, the evolution of the strictly co-operative HrpRS pair raises questions of potential benefits and mechanistic differences this transcription control system offers. Here, we show distinct properties of HrpR and HrpS variants, indicating functional specialization of these non-redundant, tandemly arranged paralogues. Activities of HrpR, HrpS and their control proteins HrpV and HrpG from Ps pv. tomato DC3000 in vitro establish that HrpRS forms a transcriptionally active hetero-hexamer, that there is a direct negative regulatory role for HrpV through specific binding to HrpS and that HrpG suppresses HrpV. The distinct HrpR and HrpS functionalities suggest how partial paralogue degeneration has potentially led to a novel control mechanism for EBPs and indicate subunit-specific roles for EBPs in σ54-RNA polymerase activation.
HrpR and HrpS enhancer-binding proteins of Pseudomonas syringae activate σ54-dependent transcription of the HrpL promoter and are required for type-three secretion pathogenicity. Here, the authors demonstrate that, despite being co-regulated, HrpR and HrpS each have distinct functions for activating σ54.
PMCID: PMC3105312  PMID: 21285955

Results 1-8 (8)