We have used protein electrophoresis through polyacrylamide gels derivatized with the proprietary ligand Phos-tag™ to separate the response regulator BvgA from its phosphorylated counterpart BvgA∼P. This approach has allowed us to readily ascertain the degree of phosphorylation of BvgA in in vitro reactions, or in crude lysates of Bordetella pertussis grown under varying laboratory conditions. We have used this technique to examine the kinetics of BvgA phosphorylation after shift of B. pertussis cultures from non-permissive to permissive conditions, or of its dephosphorylation following a shift from permissive to non-permissive conditions. Our results provide the first direct evidence that levels of BvgA∼P in vivo correspond temporally to the expression of early and late BvgA-regulated virulence genes. We have also examined a number of other aspects of BvgA function predicted from previous studies and by analogy with other two-component response regulators. These include the site of BvgA phosphorylation, the exclusive role of the cognate BvgS sensor kinase in its phosphorylation in Bordetella pertussis, and the effect of the T194M mutation on phosphorylation. We also detected the phosphorylation of a small but consistent fraction of BvgA purified after expression in Escherichia coli.
Published 2013. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.