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Listeria monocytogenes σB Modulates PrfA-Mediated Virulence Factor Expression

Ollinger, Juliane, Bowen, Barbara, Wiedmann, Martin, Boor, Kathryn J., Bergholz, Teresa M.
Infection and immunity 2009 v.77 no.5 pp. 2113-2124
Listeria monocytogenes, bacteria, cytotoxicity, gene expression, hemolysis, human cell lines, models, regulon, reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, transcriptional activation, virulence
Listeria monocytogenes σB and positive regulatory factor A (PrfA) are pleiotropic transcriptional regulators that coregulate a subset of virulence genes. A positive regulatory role for σB in prfA transcription has been well established; therefore, observations of increased virulence gene expression and hemolytic activity in a ΔsigB strain initially appeared paradoxical. To test the hypothesis that L. monocytogenes σB contributes to a regulatory network critical for appropriate repression as well as induction of virulence gene expression, genome-wide transcript profiling and follow-up quantitative reverse transcriptase PCR (qRT-PCR), reporter fusion, and phenotypic experiments were conducted using L. monocytogenes prfA*, prfA* ΔsigB, ΔprfA, and ΔprfA ΔsigB strains. Genome-wide transcript profiling and qRT-PCR showed that in the presence of active PrfA (PrfA*), σB is responsible for reduced expression of the PrfA regulon. σB-dependent modulation of PrfA regulon expression reduced the cytotoxic effects of a PrfA* strain in HepG2 cells, highlighting the functional importance of regulatory interactions between PrfA and σB. The emerging model of the role of σB in regulating overall PrfA activity includes a switch from transcriptional activation at the P2prfA promoter (e.g., in extracellular bacteria when PrfA activity is low) to posttranscriptional downregulation of PrfA regulon expression (e.g., in intracellular bacteria when PrfA activity is high).