The Per regulon of enteropathogenic Escherichia coli : identification of a regulatory cascade and a novel transcriptional activator, the locus of enterocyte effacement (LEE)-encoded regulator (Ler)

Authors


James B. Kaper E-mail jkaper@umaryland.edu; Tel. (+1) 410 706 3004; Fax (+1) 410 706 0182.

Abstract

Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) is the prototype organism of a group of pathogenic Gram-negative bacteria that cause attaching and effacing (AE) intestinal lesions. All EPEC genes necessary for the AE phenotype are encoded within a 35.6 kb pathogenicity island termed the locus of enterocyte effacement (LEE). The LEE encodes 41 predicted open reading frames (ORFs), including components of a type III secretion apparatus and secreted molecules involved in the disruption of the host cell cytoskeleton. To initiate our studies on regulation of genes within the LEE, we determined the genetic organization of the LEE, defining transcriptional units and mapping transcriptional start points. We found that components of the type III secretion system are transcribed from three polycistronic operons designated LEE1, LEE2 and LEE3. The secreted Esp molecules are part of a fourth polycistronic operon designated LEE4. Using reporter gene fusion assays, we found that the previously described plasmid-encoded regulator (Per) activated operons LEE1, LEE2 and LEE3, and modestly increased the expression of LEE4 in EPEC. Using single-copy lacZ fusions in K-12-derived strains, we determined that Per only directly activated the LEE1::lacZ fusion, and did not directly activate the other operons. Orf1 of the LEE1 operon activated the expression of single-copy LEE2::lacZ and LEE3::lacZ fusions in trans and modestly increased the expression of LEE4::lacZ in K-12 strains. Orf1 was therefore designated Ler, for LEE-encoded regulator. Thus, the four polycistronic operons of the LEE that encode type III secretion components and secreted molecules are now included in the Per regulon, where Ler participates in this novel regulatory cascade in EPEC.

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