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Summary

Xenorhabdus nematophila engages in complex interactions with invertebrates, through its symbiosis with soil nematodes and its pathogenicity to a broad range of insect larvae. Among the regulatory proteins of Xenorhabdus involved in host interactions, the sigma factor FliA and the regulator FliZ, expressed from the fliAZ operon, play a key role in mediating the production of exoenzymes, motility and full virulence in insects (Lanois et al., 2008). In this study, we investigated the dynamics of the FliA-dependent flagellin gene fliC and FliZ-dependent haemolysin genes xaxAB during insect infection and nematode association by carrying out real-time expression analysis using an unstable GFP monitoring system. We showed that expression of the FliAZ-dependent genes in infected insects is not restricted to a specific tissue but increases significantly just prior to host death and reaches a maximal level in larvae cadaver. Using an iron availability reporter construct, we also showed that iron starvation conditions inhibit expression of FliAZ-dependent genes in vitro, as well as during the first steps of the infectious process. These findings shed further light on the role of the FliAZ regulon in the Xenorhabdus life cycle and suggest that iron may constitute a signal governing Xenorhabdus adaptation to shifting host environments.