Plasmid Negative Regulation of CPAF Expression Is Pgp4 Independent and Restricted to Invasive Chlamydia trachomatis Biovars

mBio. 2018 Jan 30;9(1):e02164-17. doi: 10.1128/mBio.02164-17.


Chlamydia trachomatis is an obligate intracellular bacterial pathogen that causes blinding trachoma and sexually transmitted disease. C. trachomatis isolates are classified into 2 biovars-lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV) and trachoma-which are distinguished biologically by their natural host cell infection tropism. LGV biovars infect macrophages and are invasive, whereas trachoma biovars infect oculo-urogenital epithelial cells and are noninvasive. The C. trachomatis plasmid is an important virulence factor in the pathogenesis of these infections. Central to its pathogenic role is the transcriptional regulatory function of the plasmid protein Pgp4, which regulates the expression of plasmid and chromosomal virulence genes. As many gene regulatory functions are post-transcriptional, we employed a comparative proteomic study of cells infected with plasmid-cured C. trachomatis serovars A and D (trachoma biovar), a L2 serovar (LGV biovar), and the L2 serovar transformed with a plasmid containing a nonsense mutation in pgp4 to more completely elucidate the effects of the plasmid on chlamydial infection biology. Our results show that the Pgp4-dependent elevations in the levels of Pgp3 and a conserved core set of chromosomally encoded proteins are remarkably similar for serovars within both C. trachomatis biovars. Conversely, we found a plasmid-dependent, Pgp4-independent, negative regulation in the expression of the chlamydial protease-like activity factor (CPAF) for the L2 serovar but not the A and D serovars. The molecular mechanism of plasmid-dependent negative regulation of CPAF expression in the LGV serovar is not understood but is likely important to understanding its macrophage infection tropism and invasive infection nature.IMPORTANCE The Chlamydia trachomatis plasmid is an important virulence factor in the pathogenesis of chlamydial infection. It is known that plasmid protein 4 (Pgp4) functions in the transcriptional regulation of the plasmid virulence protein 3 (Pgp3) and multiple chromosomal loci of unknown function. Since many gene regulatory functions can be post-transcriptional, we undertook a comparative proteomic analysis to better understand the plasmid's role in chlamydial and host protein expression. We report that Pgp4 is a potent and specific master positive regulator of a common core of plasmid and chromosomal virulence genes shared by multiple C. trachomatis serovars. Notably, we show that the plasmid is a negative regulator of the expression of the chlamydial virulence factor CPAF. The plasmid regulation of CPAF is independent of Pgp4 and restricted to a C. trachomatis macrophage-tropic strain. These findings are important because they define a previously unknown role for the plasmid in the pathophysiology of invasive chlamydial infection.

Keywords: Chlamydia trachomatis; plasmid; proteomics; virulence factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chlamydia trachomatis / chemistry
  • Chlamydia trachomatis / genetics*
  • Chlamydia trachomatis / metabolism*
  • Endopeptidases / biosynthesis*
  • Epithelial Cells / microbiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Plasmids*
  • Proteome / analysis
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Proteome
  • Transcription Factors
  • Endopeptidases
  • CPA factor