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Summary

RovA is a MarR-type transcriptional regulator that controls transcription of rovA, the expression of the primary invasive factor invasin and other virulence genes of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis in response to environmental signals. Using a genetic approach to identify regulatory components that negatively influence rovA expression, we identified a new LysR-type regulatory protein, designated RovM, which exhibits homology to the virulence regulator PecT/HexA of plant pathogenic Erwinia species. DNA-binding studies revealed that RovM interacts specifically with a short binding site between promoters P1 and P2 within the rovA regulatory region and negatively modulates rovA transcription in cooperation with the histone-like protein H-NS. The rovM gene itself is under positive autoregulatory control and is significantly induced during growth in minimal media as shown in regulation studies. Disruption of the rovM gene leads to a significant increase of RovA and invasin synthesis and enhances internalization of Y. pseudotuberculosis into host cells. Finally, we show that a Y. pseudotuberculosis rovM mutant is more virulent than wild type and higher numbers of the bacteria are detectable in gut-associated lymphatic tissues and organs in the mouse infection model system. In contrast, elevated levels of the RovM protein, which exert a positive effect on flagellar motility, severely attenuate the ability of Y. pseudotuberculosis to disseminate to deeper tissues. Together, our data show, that RovM is a key regulator implicated in the environmental control of virulence factors, which are crucial for the initiation of a Yersinia infection.