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The pleiotropic Legionella transcription factor LvbR links the Lqs and c‐di‐GMP regulatory networks to control biofilm architecture and virulence

Hochstrasser, Ramon, Kessler, Aline, Sahr, Tobias, Simon, Sylvia, Schell, Ursula, Gomez‐Valero, Laura, Buchrieser, Carmen, Hilbi, Hubert
Environmental microbiology 2019 v.21 no.3 pp. 1035-1053
DNA, Legionella pneumophila, Legionnaires' disease, biofilm, biomass, cell movement, enzymes, genes, genomics, metabolism, mixed infection, mutants, phagocytes, plankton, quorum sensing, secondary infection, transcription factors, transcriptomics, virulence
The causative agent of Legionnaires' disease, Legionella pneumophila, colonizes amoebae and biofilms in the environment. The opportunistic pathogen employs the Lqs (Legionella quorum sensing) system and the signalling molecule LAI‐1 (Legionella autoinducer‐1) to regulate virulence, motility, natural competence and expression of a 133 kb genomic “fitness island”, including a putative novel regulator. Here, we show that the regulator termed LvbR is an LqsS‐regulated transcription factor that binds to the promoter of lpg1056/hnox1 (encoding an inhibitor of the diguanylate cyclase Lpg1057), and thus, regulates proteins involved in c‐di‐GMP metabolism. LvbR determines biofilm architecture, since L. pneumophila lacking lvbR accumulates less sessile biomass and forms homogeneous mat‐like structures, while the parental strain develops more compact bacterial aggregates. Comparative transcriptomics of sessile and planktonic ΔlvbR or ΔlqsR mutant strains revealed concerted (virulence, fitness island, metabolism) and reciprocally (motility) regulated genes in biofilm and broth respectively. Moreover, ΔlvbR is hyper‐competent for DNA uptake, defective for phagocyte infection, outcompeted by the parental strain in amoebae co‐infections and impaired for cell migration inhibition. Taken together, our results indicate that L. pneumophila LvbR is a novel pleiotropic transcription factor, which links the Lqs and c‐di‐GMP regulatory networks to control biofilm architecture and pathogen–host cell interactions.