An activator of glutamate decarboxylase genes regulates the expression of enteropathogenic Escherichia coli virulence genes through control of the plasmid-encoded regulator, Per

Mol Microbiol. 2001 Sep;41(5):1133-50. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.2001.02570.x.


Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) is a major cause of infantile diarrhoea in a number of developing countries and is the prototype of pathogenic bacteria that cause attaching and effacing (A/E) intestinal lesions. A chromosomal pathogenicity island, termed the locus of enterocyte effacement (LEE), contains all the genes necessary for the A/E phenotype as well as genes for a type III secretion system and intimate adhesion. Genes in the LEE and genes involved in the synthesis of bundle-forming pili (BFP) are positively regulated by the plasmid-encoded regulator (Per) and comprise the per regulon. In order to identify factors that control the per regulon, we screened an EPEC genomic library for clones that modulate the expression of per. A plasmid clone that decreased the expression of per was isolated using a lacZ reporter gene fused to the per promoter. Subcloning revealed that YhiX, a putative AraC/XylR family transcriptional regulator, was the effector of per repression. Through downregulation of per, a plasmid overproducing YhiX reduced the synthesis of intimin, BfpA, Tir, and CesT, factors important for EPEC virulence. yhiX is located downstream of gadA, which encodes glutamate decarboxylase, an enzyme involved in acid resistance of E. coli. YhiX was found to be an activator of gadA, and the cloned yhiX gene increased production of glutamate decarboxylases (GAD) and activated the transcription of the gadA and gadB promoters. Therefore, yhiX was renamed gadX. Analysis of a gadX mutant grown in the different culture media with acidic and alkaline pH showed that regulation of perA, gadA and gadB by GadX was altered by the external pH and the culture media condition. Under conditions in which EPEC infects cultured epithelial cells, GadX negatively regulated perA expression, and the derepression in the gadX mutant increased translocation of Tir into epithelial cells relative to wild-type EPEC. DNA mobility shift experiments showed that purified GadX protein bound to the perA, gadA and gadB promoter regions in vitro, indicating that GadX is a transcriptional regulator of these genes. On the basis of these results, we propose that GadX may be involved in the appropriate expression of genes required for acid resistance and virulence of EPEC. Our data are consistent with a model in which environmental changes resulting from passage from the stomach to the proximal small intestine induce the functional effect of GadX on per and GAD expression in order to prevent inappropriate expression of the products of these two systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • AraC Transcription Factor / chemistry
  • AraC Transcription Factor / genetics
  • AraC Transcription Factor / metabolism*
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Escherichia coli / enzymology
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / pathogenicity*
  • Escherichia coli Infections / microbiology
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / chemistry
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / genetics
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase / genetics
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase / metabolism*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation
  • Plasmids / genetics*
  • Regulon*
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Virulence / genetics


  • AraC Transcription Factor
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • GadX protein, E coli
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Repressor Proteins
  • bfpT protein, E coli
  • gadA protein, E coli
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase