Comparison of the PhoPQ regulon in Escherichia coli and Salmonella typhimurium

J Mol Evol. 2005 Apr;60(4):462-74. doi: 10.1007/s00239-004-0212-7.


The PhoPQ two-component system acts as a transcriptional regulator that responds to Mg(2+) starvation both in Escherichia coli and Salmonella typhimurium (Garcia et al. 1996; Kato et al. 1999). By monitoring the availability of extracellular Mg(2+), this two-component system allows S. typhimurium to sense the transition from an extracellular environment to a subcellular location. Concomitantly with this transition, a set of virulence factors essential for survival in the intracellular environment is activated by the PhoPQ system (Groisman et al. 1989; Miller et al. 1989). Compared to nonpathogenic strains, such as E. coli K12, the PhoPQ regulon in pathogens must contain target genes specifically contributing to the virulence phenotype. To verify this hypothesis, we compared the composition of the PhoPQ regulon between E. coli and S. typhimurium using a combination of expression experiments and motif data. PhoPQ-dependent genes in both organisms were identified from PhoPQ-related microarray experiments. To distinguish between direct and indirect targets, we searched for the presence of the regulatory motif in the promoter region of the identified PhoPQ-dependent genes. This allowed us to reconstruct the direct PhoPQ-dependent regulons in E. coli K12 and S. typhimurium LT2. Comparison of both regulons revealed a very limited overlap of PhoPQ-dependent genes between both organisms. These results suggest that the PhoPQ system has acquired a specialized function during evolution in each of these closely related species that allows adaptation to the specificities of their lifestyles (e.g., pathogenesis in S. typhimurium).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Base Sequence
  • Escherichia coli / genetics*
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / genetics*
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Regulon*
  • Salmonella typhimurium / genetics*
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • PhoP protein, E coli
  • PhoQ protein, Bacteria
  • PhoP protein, Bacteria