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Exotoxin A production in Pseudomonas aeruginosa requires the iron-regulated pvdS gene encoding an alternative sigma factor

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Exotoxin A (ETA) is secreted by Pseudomonas aeruginosa under iron-limiting growth conditions. The ETA structural gene, toxA, is regulated at the transcriptional level by the gene products of the regAB operon. The expression of both toxA and regAB is repressed under iron-replete conditions, suggesting a role for the ferric uptake regulator (Fur) in regulation of ETA synthesis; however, the Fur protein does not interact directly with the toxA or the regAB promoters. Evidence is presented that the iron control of ETA synthesis is mediated by a Fur-regulated alternative sigma factor, PvdS, which had initially been identified as a positive activator for the production of the siderophore pyoverdin. In a ΔpvdS deletion mutant, ETA was produced at low levels of less than 5% compared to wild type, but still in response to iron starvation, and introduction of a functional pvdS gene on a plasmid fully restored wild-type levels and normal iron regulation of ETA synthesis. Therefore, a functional pvdS locus is essential for ETA production. Neither toxA nor regAB mRNA was detectable in a ΔpvdS mutant. Overexpression of pvdS from the tac promoter on a plasmid resulted in a high-level and iron-independent production of ETA in wild-type PAO1, in the ΔpvdS strain, but not in a ΔregA strain as a host. These findings suggest that PvdS is required for the activation of the regAB promoters. The transcription of regAB and toxA after induction of the Ptac–pvdS gene was monitored in cells grown in high-iron medium. While both regAB and toxA were highly expressed during all growth phases under microaerobic conditions, toxA transcripts were detected only during the exponential but not the early stationary phase of growth under aerobic conditions. These results suggest that a second regulatory mechanism besides the Fur–PvdS system is involved in iron regulation of ETA production.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Microbiology, Campus Box B175, University of Colorado Health Sciences Centre, 4200 East Ninth Avenue, Denver, Colorado 80262, USA. 2: Department of Biochemistry and Centre for Gene Research, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Publication date: September 1, 1996

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