Hierarchy in the expression of the locus of enterocyte effacement genes of enteropathogenic Escherichia coli

Mol Microbiol. 1999 Dec;34(5):941-52. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.1999.01655.x.


Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) elicit changes in host cell morphology and cause actin rearrangement, a phenotype that has commonly been referred to as attaching/effacing (AE) lesions. The ability of EPEC to induce AE lesions is dependent upon a type III protein secretion/translocation system that is encoded by genes clustered in a 35.6 kb DNA segment, named the locus of enterocyte effacement (LEE). We used transcriptional fusions between the green fluorescent protein (gfp) reporter gene and LEE genes rorf2, orf3, orf5, escJ, escV and eae, together with immunoblot analysis with antibodies against Tir, intimin, EspB and EspF, to analyse the genetic regulation of the LEE. The expression of all these LEE genes was strictly dependent upon the presence of a functional integration host factor (IHF). IHF binds specifically upstream from the ler (orf1) promoter and appears to activate expression of ler, orf3, orf5 and rorf2 directly. The ler-encoded Ler protein was involved in activating the expression of escJ, escV, tir, eae, espB and espF. Expression of both IHF and Ler was needed to elicit actin rearrangement associated with AE lesions. In conclusion, IHF directly activates the expression of the ler and rorf2 transcriptional units, and Ler in turn mediates the expression of the other LEE genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • DNA Footprinting
  • Enterocytes / microbiology
  • Escherichia coli / genetics*
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / pathogenicity*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Integration Host Factors
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Mutation
  • Open Reading Frames / genetics
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Virulence / genetics


  • Actins
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Integration Host Factors
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins