Construction of a fur null mutant and RNA-sequencing provide deeper global understanding of the Aliivibrio salmonicida Fur regulon

PeerJ. 2017 Jul 13;5:e3461. doi: 10.7717/peerj.3461. eCollection 2017.


Background: The ferric uptake regulator (Fur) is a transcription factor and the main regulator of iron acquisition in prokaryotes. When bound to ferric iron, Fur recognizes its DNA binding site and generally executes its function by repressing transcription of its target genes. Due to its importance in virulence, the Fur regulon is well studied for several model bacteria. In our previous work, we used computational predictions and microarray to gain insights into Fur-regulation in Aliivibrio salmonicida, and have identified a number of genes and operons that appear to be under direct control of Fur. To provide a more accurate and deeper global understanding of the biological role of Fur we have now generated an A. salmonicida fur knock-out strain and used RNA-sequencing to compare gene expression between the wild-type and fur null mutant strains.

Results: An A. salmonicida fur null mutant strain was constructed. Biological assays demonstrate that deletion of fur results in loss of fitness, with reduced growth rates, and reduced abilities to withstand low-iron conditions, and oxidative stress. When comparing expression levels in the wild-type and the fur null mutant we retrieved 296 differentially expressed genes distributed among 18 of 21 functional classes of genes. A gene cluster encoding biosynthesis of the siderophore bisucaberin represented the highest up-regulated genes in the fur null mutant. Other highly up-regulated genes all encode proteins important for iron acquisition. Potential targets for the RyhB sRNA was predicted from the list of down-regulated genes, and significant complementarities were found between RyhB and mRNAs of the fur, sodB, cysN and VSAL_I0422 genes. Other sRNAs with potential functions in iron homeostasis were identified.

Conclusion: The present work provides by far the most comprehensive and deepest understanding of the Fur regulon in A. salmonicida to date. Our data also contribute to a better understanding of how Fur plays a key role in iron homeostasis in bacteria in general, and help to show how Fur orchestrates iron uptake when iron levels are extremely low.

Keywords: Aliivibrio salmonicida; Ferric uptake regulator; Fur; Gene dosage effect; Iron homeostasis; RNA-sequencing; RyhB; Small regulatory RNAs; sRNAs.

Grant support

This work was funded by the Norwegian National Graduate School in Structural Biology (Biostruct), and UiT the Arctic University of Norway. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.