The HlyU protein is a positive regulator of rtxA1, a gene responsible for cytotoxicity and virulence in the human pathogen Vibrio vulnificus.
ABSTRACT: Vibrio vulnificus is an opportunistic human pathogen that preferentially infects compromised iron-overloaded patients, causing a fatal primary septicemia with very rapid progress, resulting in a high mortality rate. In this study we determined that the HlyU protein, a virulence factor in V. vulnificus CMCP6, up-regulates the expression of VV20479, a homologue of the Vibrio cholerae RTX (repeats in toxin) toxin gene that we named rtxA1. This gene is part of an operon together with two other open reading frames, VV20481 and VV20480, that encode two predicted proteins, a peptide chain release factor 1 and a hemolysin acyltransferase, respectively. A mutation in rtxA1 not only contributes to the loss of cytotoxic activity but also results in a decrease in virulence, whereas a deletion of VV20481 and VV20480 causes a slight decrease in virulence but with no effect in cytotoxicity. Activation of the expression of the rtxA1 operon by HlyU occurs at the transcription initiation level by binding of the HlyU protein to a region upstream of this operon.
Project description:The virulence gene rtxA1, encoding the repeat-in-toxin protein, plays an essential role in the pathogenesis of Vibrio vulnificus infections. Expression of this gene is controlled by the HlyU regulator by direct contact of the DNA upstream of the rtxA1 toxin operon acting as a derepressor of the H-NS protein. The crystal structure suggests that HlyU forms a homodimer in vitro. However, knowledge of the biological implications of these findings in vivo is limited. In this work, we endeavored to dissect, using genetic and biochemical approaches, the domains of this protein that are essential for homodimer formation and the interaction of HlyU with the target DNA. We identified that residues L18, N22, R25, S54, Q55, L57, W59, R61, K70, and Y77 are essential for the HlyU protein binding to the DNA and that amino acids L17 and L91 are important for HlyU dimerization. We also determined that HlyU homodimer formation is an essential requirement for binding to the upstream region of the rtxA1 operon and is the key feature in relieving the H-NS repression of rtxA1 transcription.
Project description:In Vibrio vulnificus, HlyU upregulates the expression of the large RTX toxin gene. In this work we identified the binding site of HlyU to -417 to -376 bp of the rtxA1 operon transcription start site. lacZ fusions for a series of progressive deletions from the rtxA1 operon promoter showed that transcriptional activity increased independently of HlyU when its binding site was absent. Thus HlyU must regulate the rtxA1 operon expression by antagonizing a negative regulator. Concomitantly we found that an hns mutant resulted in an increase in the expression of the rtxA1 operon genes. Multiple copies of HlyU can increase the promoter activity only in the presence of H-NS underscoring the hypothesis that HlyU must alleviate the repression by this protein. H-NS binds to a region that extends upstream and downstream of the rtxA1 operon promoter. In the upstream region it binds to five AT-rich sites of which two overlap the HlyU binding site. Competitive footprinting and gel shift data demonstrate HlyU's higher affinity as compared with H-NS resulting in the de-repression and a corresponding increased expression of the rtxA1 operon.
Project description:Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in pathogens is the result of indiscriminate use of antibiotics and consequent metabolic/genetic modulation to evolve survival strategies and clonal-selection in AMR strains. As an alternative to antibiotic treatment, antivirulence strategies are being developed, not only to combat bacterial pathogenesis, but also to avoid emerging antibiotic resistance. Vibrio vulnificus is a foodborne pathogen that causes gastroenteritis, necrotizing wound infections, and sepsis with a high rate of mortality. Here, we developed an inhibitor-screening reporter platform to target HlyU, a master transcriptional regulator of virulence factors in V. vulnificus by assessing rtxA1 transcription under its control. The inhibitor-screening platform includes wild type and ?hlyU mutant strains of V. vulnificus harboring the reporter construct P rtxA1::luxCDABE for desired luminescence signal detection and control background luminescence, respectively. Using the inhibitor-screening platform, we identified a small molecule, fursultiamine hydrochloride (FTH), that inhibits the transcription of the highly invasive repeat-in-toxin (rtxA1) and hemolysin (vvhA) along with other HlyU regulated virulence genes. FTH has no cytotoxic effects on either host cells or pathogen at the tested concentrations. FTH rescues host cells from the necrotic cell-death induced by RtxA1 and decreases the hemolytic activity under in vitro conditions. The most important point is that FTH treatment does not induce the antivirulence resistance. Current study validated the antivirulence strategy targeting the HlyU virulence transcription factor and toxin-network of V. vulnificus and demonstrated that FTH, exhibits a potential to inhibit the pathogenesis of deadly, opportunistic human pathogen, V. vulnificus without inducing AMR.
Project description:Cytotoxicity is an important virulence determinant in the pathogenesis of Vibrio vulnificus, and two cytotoxins, RTX (encoded by rtxA1) and cytolysin/hemolysin (encoded by vvhA), have been identified in this organism. We showed that the quorum-sensing regulator LuxO controlled the cytotoxicity of this organism: a ?luxO mutant exhibited low cytotoxicity, whereas a constitutively activated luxO mutant, luxO(D47E), remained highly cytotoxic. The cytotoxicity of the ?luxO mutant was restored when smcR, a Vibrio harveyi luxR homologue repressed by luxO, was further deleted. SmcR then was shown to repress the expression of both rtxA1 and vvhA. A DNA library of V. vulnificus was screened in Escherichia coli for clones that upregulated vvhA in the presence of SmcR, and hlyU, which has been shown to positively regulate rtxA1 and vvhA, was identified. We demonstrated that SmcR repressed the expression of hlyU and bound to a region upstream of hlyU in V. vulnificus. The deletion of hlyU resulted in the loss of cytotoxicity and reduced cytolysin/hemolysin production in the ?smcR mutant. The ?smcR ?hlyU mutant regained cytotoxicity and cytolysin/hemolysin activity when hns, which has been shown to repress the transcription of rtxA1 and interfere with hlyU, was further removed. Collectively, our data suggest that SmcR mediates the regulation of cytotoxicity by quorum-sensing signaling in V. vulnificus by repressing hlyU, an activator of rtxA1 and vvhA.
Project description:HlyU, a transcriptional regulator common in many Vibrio species, activates the hemolysin gene hlyA in Vibrio cholerae, the rtxA1 operon in Vibrio vulnificus and the genes of plp-vah1 and rtxACHBDE gene clusters in Vibrio anguillarum. The protein is also proposed to be a potential global virulence regulator for V. cholerae and V. vulnificus. Mechanisms of gene control by HlyU in V. vulnificus and V. anguillarum are reported. However, detailed elucidation of the interaction of HlyU in V. cholerae with its target DNA at the molecular level is not available. Here we report a 17-bp imperfect palindrome sequence, 5'-TAATTCAGACTAAATTA-3', 173 bp upstream of hlyA promoter, as the binding site of HlyU. This winged helix-turn-helix protein binds necessarily as a dimer with the recognition helices contacting the major grooves and the ?-sheet wings, the minor grooves. Such interactions enhance hlyA promoter activity in vivo. Mutations affecting dimerization as well as those in the DNA-protein interface hamper DNA binding and transcription regulation. Molecular dynamic simulations show hydrogen bonding patterns involving residues at the mutation sites and confirmed their importance in DNA binding. On binding to HlyU, DNA deviates by ?68º from linearity. Dynamics also suggest a possible redox control in HlyU.
Project description:Vibrio vulnificus is a food-borne bacterial pathogen associated with 1% of all food-related deaths, predominantly because of consumption of contaminated seafood. The ability of V. vulnificus to cause disease is linked to the production of a large cytotoxin called the "multifunctional-autoprocessing RTX" (MARTX(Vv)) toxin, a factor shown here to be an important virulence factor by the intragastric route of infection in mice. In this study, we examined genetic variation of the rtxA1 gene that encodes MARTX(Vv) in 40 V. vulnificus Biotype 1 strains and found four distinct variants of rtxA1 that encode toxins with different arrangements of effector domains. We provide evidence that these variants arose by recombination either with rtxA genes carried on plasmids or with the rtxA gene of Vibrio anguillarum. Contrary to expected results, the most common rtxA1 gene variant in clinical-type V. vulnificus encodes a toxin with reduced potency and is distinct from the toxin produced by strains isolated from market oysters. These results indicate that an important virulence factor of V. vulnificus is undergoing significant genetic rearrangement and may be subject to selection for reduced virulence in the environment. This finding would imply further that in the future on-going genetic variation of the MARTX(Vv) toxins could result in the emergence of novel strains with altered virulence in humans.
Project description:Increasing antibiotic resistance has led to the development of new strategies to combat bacterial infection. Anti-virulence strategies that impair virulence of bacterial pathogens are one of the novel approaches with less selective pressure for developing resistance than traditional strategies that impede viability. In this study, a small molecule CM14 [N-(4-oxo-4H-thieno[3,4-c]chromen-3-yl)-3-phenylprop-2-ynamide] that inhibits the activity of HlyU, a transcriptional regulator essential for the virulence of the fulminating human pathogen Vibrio vulnificus, has been identified. Without affecting bacterial growth or triggering the host cell death, CM14 reduces HlyU-dependent expression of virulence genes in V. vulnificus. In addition to the decreased hemolysis of human erythrocytes, CM14 impedes host cell rounding and lysis caused by V. vulnificus. Notably, CM14 significantly enhances survival of mice infected with V. vulnificus by alleviating hepatic and renal dysfunction and systemic inflammation. Biochemical, mass spectrometric, and mutational analyses revealed that CM14 inhibits HlyU from binding to target DNA by covalently modifying Cys30. Remarkably, CM14 decreases the expression of various virulence genes of other Vibrio species and thus attenuates their virulence phenotypes. Together, this molecule could be an anti-virulence agent against HlyU-harboring Vibrio species with a low selective pressure for the emergence of resistance.
Project description:The emergence of antimicrobial resistance and rapid acclimation allows Vibrio vulnificus to rapidly propagate in the host. This problematic pathological scenario can be circumvented by employing an antivirulence strategy, treating Vibrio infections without hindering the bacterial growth. We developed a genome-integrated orthogonal inhibitor screening platform in E. coli to identify antivirulence agents targeting a master virulence regulator of V. vulnificus. We identified 2′,4′-dihydroxychalcone (DHC) from the natural compound library and verified that it decreases the expression of the major toxin network which is equivalent to the ?hlyU deletion mutant. 2′,4′-DHC also reduced the hemolytic activity of V. vulnificus which was tested as an example of virulence phenotype. The electrophoretic mobility shift assay confirmed that 2′,4′-DHC specifically targeted HlyU and inhibited its binding to PrtxA1 promoter. Under in vivo conditions, a single dose of 2′,4′-DHC protected ~50% wax-worm larvae from V. vulnificus infection at a non-toxic concentration to both V. vulnificus and wax-worm larvae. In the current study, we demonstrated that an orthogonal reporter system is suitable for the identification of antivirulence compounds with accuracy, and identified 2′,4′-DHC as a potent antivirulence agent that specifically targets the HlyU virulence transcriptional regulator and significantly reduces the virulence and infection potential of V. vulnificus.
Project description:The expression of virulence genes in bacteria is known to be regulated by various environmental and host factors. Vibrio vulnificus, an estuarine bacterium, experiences a dramatic environmental change during its infection process. We reported that V. vulnificus RtxA1 toxin caused acute cell death only when close contact to host cells was allowed. A sigma factor RpoS is a very important regulator for the maximal survival of pathogens under stress conditions. Here, we studied the role of RpoS in V. vulnificus cytotoxicity and mouse lethality. The growth of rpoS mutant strain was comparable to that of wild-type in heart infusion (HI) media and DMEM with HeLa cell lysate. An rpoS mutation resulted in decreased cytotoxicity, which was restored by in trans complementation. Interestingly, host contact increased the expression and secretion of V. vulnificus RtxA1 toxin, which was decreased and delayed by the rpoS mutation. Transcription of the cytotoxic gene rtxA1 and its transporter rtxB1 was significantly increased after host factor contact, whereas the activity was decreased by the rpoS mutation. In contrast, the rpoS mutation showed no effect on the transcriptional activity of a cytolytic heamolysin gene (vvhA). Additionally, the LD50 of the rpoS mutant was 15-fold higher than that of the wild-type in specific pathogen-free CD-1 female mice. Taken together, these results show that RpoS regulates the expression of V. vulnificus RtxA1 toxin and its transporter upon host contact.
Project description:TonB systems actively transport iron-bound substrates across the outer membranes of Gram-negative bacteria. Vibrio vulnificus CMCP6, which causes fatal septicemia and necrotizing wound infections, possesses three active TonB systems. It is not known why V. vulnificus CMCP6 has maintained three TonB systems throughout its evolution. The TonB1 and TonB2 systems are relatively well characterized, while the pathophysiological function of the TonB3 system is still elusive. A reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) study showed that the tonB1 and tonB2 genes are preferentially induced in vivo, whereas tonB3 is persistently transcribed, albeit at low expression levels, under both in vitro and in vivo conditions. The goal of the present study was to elucidate the raison d'être of these three TonB systems. In contrast to previous studies, we constructed in-frame single-, double-, and triple-deletion mutants of the entire structural genes in TonB loci, and the changes in various virulence-related phenotypes were evaluated. Surprisingly, only the tonB123 mutant exhibited a significant delay in killing eukaryotic cells, which was complemented in trans with any TonB operon. Very interestingly, we discovered that flagellum biogenesis was defective in the tonB123 mutant. The loss of flagellation contributed to severe defects in motility and adhesion of the mutant. Because of the difficulty of making contact with host cells, the mutant manifested defective RtxA1 toxin production, which resulted in impaired invasiveness, delayed cytotoxicity, and decreased lethality for mice. Taken together, these results indicate that a series of virulence defects in all three TonB systems of V. vulnificus CMCP6 coordinately complement each other for iron assimilation and full virulence expression by ensuring flagellar biogenesis.