The chromosome of Yersinia enterocolitica encodes an enterotoxin called Yst. We analysed transcription of chromosomal yst′–luxAB and plasmid-borne yst′–lacZ operon fusions and we observed that regulation of yst expression occurs at transcriptional level. In a wild-type strain, yst was transcribed from at least two major promoters, yst transcription reached a maximum at the entry to the stationary phase and significantly varied in different Y. enterocolitica strains. In some strains, it gradually decreased during the course of our work, suggesting the existence of a mechanism switching the expression of yst to a silent state. Changes in the status of bacterial host factors rather than modifications in the yst gene are responsible for this silencing. Negative regulator YmoA participates in yst silencing and temperature regulation of yst YmoA was also required for proper growth-phase regulation of yst, although it is not the only factor involved in this regulation. Physicochemical parameters of the environment play an important role in yst transcription. In usual culture media (e.g. tryptic soy broth), the enterotoxin gene was transcribed only at temperatures below 30°C, which argued against the role of Yst in a prolonged diarrhoea at body temperatures. However, yst transcription could be induced at 37°C by increasing osmolarity and pH to the values normally present in the ileum lumen. This finding reconciles the observations concerning yst expression in a host environment and in bacterial cultures, thus supporting the idea that enterotoxin Yst is a virulence factor of Y. enterocolitica.
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