Regulation of virulence gene expression in Vibrio cholerae by quorum sensing: HapR functions at the aphA promoter

Mol Microbiol. 2002 Nov;46(4):1135-47. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.2002.03229.x.


Quorum sensing negatively influences virulence gene expression in certain toxigenic Vibrio cholerae strains. At high cell densities, the response regulator LuxO fails to reduce the expression of HapR, which, in turn, represses the expression of the virulence cascade. A critical regulatory step in the cascade is activation of tcpPH expression by AphA and AphB. We show here that HapR influences the virulence cascade by directly repressing aphA expression. In strain C6706, aphA expression was increased in a delta hapR mutant and decreased in a delta luxO mutant, indicating a negative and positive influence, respectively, of these gene products on the promoter. Overexpression of HapR also reduced aphA expression in both C6706 and Escherichia coli. DNase I footprinting showed that purified HapR binds to the aphA promoter between -85 and -58. Although it appears that quorum sensing does not influence virulence gene expression in strain O395 solely because of a frameshift in hapR, overproduced HapR did not repress expression from the O395 aphA promoter in either Vibrio or E. coli, nor did the protein bind to the promoter. Two basepair differences from C6706 are present in the O395 HapR binding site at -85 and -77. Introducing the -77 change into C6706 prevented HapR binding and repression of aphA expression. This mutation also eliminated the repression of toxin-co-regulated pilus (TCP) and cholera toxin (CT) that occurs in a delta luxO mutant, indicating that HapR function at aphA is critical for density-dependent regulation of virulence genes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Base Sequence
  • Binding Sites
  • Cholera Toxin / metabolism
  • Deoxyribonuclease I / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism*
  • Species Specificity
  • Trans-Activators / genetics*
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism*
  • Transcription Factors*
  • Transcription Initiation Site
  • Vibrio cholerae / genetics*
  • Vibrio cholerae / pathogenicity*
  • Vibrio cholerae / physiology
  • Virulence / genetics


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • LuxO protein, Vibrio harveyi
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Trans-Activators
  • Transcription Factors
  • LuxR autoinducer binding proteins
  • Cholera Toxin
  • Deoxyribonuclease I