Chlamydia trachomatis maintain a conserved plasmid, which is a primary regulator of chromosomal genes, but there is no experimental evidences associating it with the strains' differential tissue tropism (ocular and genital mucosae, and lymph nodes). We investigated if the number of plasmids per strain correlate with expression profiles of plasmid ORFs and small anti-sense RNAs (sRNAs), and also if these molecular features underlie tropism dissimilarities. We performed absolute and relative qPCR to determine both the plasmid load and expression throughout C. trachomatis development. Our findings suggest that plasmid load (never exceeding 8 copies) is not a function of expression needs and does not reflect tissue tropism. However, for most ORFs, ocular strains presented lower expression than genital or lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV) strains, and ORF6/pgp4 (transcriptional regulator of virulence associated genes) presented the highest mean expression among strains, followed by the virulence factor ORF5/pgp3 (also regulated by ORF6/pgp4). More, the mean expression levels of the sRNA-2 (anti-sense to ORF2/pgp8) were up to 100-fold higher than those of the ORFs, and up to 12-fold higher than that of sRNA-7 (anti-sense to ORF7/pgp5) for the LGV strains. Overall, besides the known regulatory role of C. trachomatis plasmid, its transcriptional dynamics sustains tropism differences.
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