Stochastic transcriptional pulses orchestrate flagellar biosynthesis in Escherichia coli.
ABSTRACT: The classic picture of flagellum biosynthesis in Escherichia coli, inferred from population measurements, depicts a deterministic program where promoters are sequentially up-regulated and are maintained steadily active throughout exponential growth. However, complex regulatory dynamics at the single-cell level can be masked by bulk measurements. Here, we discover that in individual E. coli cells, flagellar promoters are stochastically activated in pulses. These pulses are coordinated within specific classes of promoters and comprise "on" and "off" states, each of which can span multiple generations. We demonstrate that in this pulsing program, the regulatory logic of flagellar assembly dictates which promoters skip pulses. Surprisingly, pulses do not require specific transcriptional or translational regulation of the flagellar master regulator, FlhDC, but instead appears to be essentially governed by an autonomous posttranslational circuit. Our results suggest that even topologically simple transcriptional networks can generate unexpectedly rich temporal dynamics and phenotypic heterogeneities.
Project description:Flagellar synthesis is a highly regulated process in all motile bacteria. In Escherichia coli and related species, the transcription factor FlhDC is the master regulator of a multi-tiered transcription network. FlhDC activates transcription of a number of genes, including some flagellar genes and the gene encoding the alternative Sigma factor FliA. Genes whose expression is required late in flagellar assembly are primarily transcribed by FliA, imparting temporal regulation of transcription and coupling expression to flagellar assembly. In this study, we use ChIP-seq and RNA-seq to comprehensively map the E. coli FlhDC and FliA regulons. We define a surprisingly restricted FlhDC regulon, including two novel regulated targets and two binding sites not associated with detectable regulation of surrounding genes. In contrast, we greatly expand the known FliA regulon. Surprisingly, 30 of the 52 FliA binding sites are located inside genes. Two of these intragenic promoters are associated with detectable noncoding RNAs, while the others either produce highly unstable RNAs or are inactive under these conditions. Together, our data redefine the E. coli flagellar regulatory network, and provide new insight into the temporal orchestration of gene expression that coordinates the flagellar assembly process.
Project description:The presumptive transcriptional regulator YjjQ has been identified as being virulence associated in avian pathogenic Escherichia coli (APEC). In this work, we characterize YjjQ as transcriptional repressor of the flhDC operon, encoding the master regulator of flagellar synthesis, and of additional loci. The latter include gfc (capsule 4 synthesis), ompC (outer membrane porin C), yfiRNB (regulated c-di-GMP synthesis), and loci of poorly defined function (ybhL and ymiA-yciX). We identify the YjjQ DNA-binding sites at the flhDC and gfc promoters and characterize a DNA-binding sequence motif present at all promoters found to be repressed by YjjQ. At the flhDC promoter, the YjjQ DNA-binding site overlaps the RcsA-RcsB DNA-binding site. RcsA-RcsB likewise represses the flhDC promoter, but the repression by YjjQ and that by RcsA-RcsB are independent of each other. These data suggest that YjjQ is an additional regulator involved in the complex control of flhDC at the level of transcription initiation. Furthermore, we show that YjjQ represses motility of the E. coli K-12 laboratory strain and of uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC) strains CFT073 and 536. Regulation of flhDC, yfiRNB, and additional loci by YjjQ may be features relevant for pathogenicity.Escherichia coli is a commensal and pathogenic bacterium causing intra- and extraintestinal infections in humans and farm animals. The pathogenicity of E. coli strains is determined by their particular genome content, which includes essential and associated virulence factors that control the cellular physiology in the host environment. However, the gene pools of commensal and pathogenic E. coli are not clearly differentiated, and the function of virulence-associated loci needs to be characterized. In this study, we characterize the function of yjjQ, encoding a transcription regulator that was identified as being virulence associated in avian pathogenic E. coli (APEC). We characterize YjjQ as transcriptional repressor of flagellar motility and of additional loci related to pathogenicity.
Project description:FliZ, a global regulatory protein under the control of the flagellar master regulator FlhDC, was shown to antagonize ?(S)-dependent gene expression in Escherichia coli. Thereby it plays a pivotal role in the decision between alternative life-styles, i.e. FlhDC-controlled flagellum-based motility or ?(S)-dependent curli fimbriae-mediated adhesion and biofilm formation. Here, we show that FliZ is an abundant DNA-binding protein that inhibits gene expression mediated by ?(S) by recognizing operator sequences that resemble the -10 region of ?(S)-dependent promoters. FliZ does so with a structural element that is similar to region 3.0 of ?(S). Within this element, R108 in FliZ corresponds to K173 in ?(S), which contacts a conserved cytosine at the -13 promoter position that is specific for ?(S)-dependent promoters. R108 as well as C(-13) are also crucial for DNA binding by FliZ. However, while a number of FliZ binding sites correspond to known ?(S)-dependent promoters, promoter activity is not a prerequisite for FliZ binding and repressor function. Thus, we demonstrate that FliZ also feedback-controls flagellar gene expression by binding to a site in the flhDC control region that shows similarity only to a -10 element of a ?(S)-dependent promoter, but does not function as a promoter.
Project description:The flagellar regulon controls Salmonella biofilm formation, virulence gene expression and the production of the major surface antigen present on the cell surface: flagellin. At the top of a flagellar regulatory hierarchy is the master operon, flhDC, which encodes the FlhD?C? transcriptional complex required for the expression of flagellar, chemotaxis and Salmonella pathogenicity island 1 (Spi1) genes. Of six potential transcriptional start-sites within the flhDC promoter region, only two, P1(flhDC) and P5(flhDC), were functional in a wild-type background, while P6(flhDC) was functional in the absence of CRP. These promoters are transcribed differentially to control either flagellar or Spi1 virulent gene expression at different stages of cell growth. Transcription from P1(flhDC) initiates flagellar assembly and a negative autoregulatory loop through FlhD?C?-dependent transcription of the rflM gene, which encodes a repressor of flhDC transcription. Transcription from P1(flhDC) also initiates transcription of the Spi1 regulatory gene, hilD, whose product, in addition to activating Spi1 genes, also activates transcription of the flhDC P5 promoter later in the cell growth phase. The regulators of flhDC transcription (RcsB, LrhA, RflM, HilD, SlyA and RtsB) also exert their control at different stages of the cell growth phase and are also subjected to cell growth phase control. This dynamic of flhDC transcription separates the roles of FlhD?C? transcriptional activation into an early cell growth phase role for flagellar production from a late cell growth phase role in virulence gene expression.
Project description:The flagellar systems of Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica exhibit a significant level of genetic and functional synteny. Both systems are controlled by the flagellar specific master regulator FlhD4C2. Since the early days of genetic analyses of flagellar systems it has been known that E. coli flhDC can complement a ?flhDC mutant in S. enterica. The genomic revolution has identified how genetic changes to transcription factors and/or DNA binding sites can impact the phenotypic outcome across related species. We were therefore interested in asking: using modern tools to interrogate flagellar gene expression and assembly, what would the impact be of replacing the flhDC coding sequences in S. enterica for the E. coli genes at the flhDC S. entercia chromosomal locus? We show that even though all strains created are motile, flagellar gene expression is measurably lower when flhDCEC are present. These changes can be attributed to the impact of FlhD4C2 DNA recognition and the protein-protein interactions required to generate a stable FlhD4C2 complex. Furthermore, our data suggests that in E. coli the internal flagellar FliT regulatory feedback loop has a marked difference with respect to output of the flagellar systems. We argue due diligence is required in making assumptions based on heterologous expression of regulators and that even systems showing significant synteny may not behave in exactly the same manner.
Project description:The barA and sirA genes of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium encode a two-component sensor kinase and a response regulator, respectively. This system increases the expression of virulence genes and decreases the expression of motility genes. In this study, we examined the pathways by which SirA affects these genes. We found that the master regulator of flagellar genes, flhDC, had a positive regulatory effect on the primary regulator of intestinal virulence determinants, hilA, but that hilA had no effect on flhDC. SirA was able to repress flhDC in a hilA mutant and activate hilA in an flhDC mutant. Therefore, although the flhDC and hilA regulatory cascades interact, sirA affects each of them independently. A form of BarA lacking the two N-terminal membrane-spanning domains, BarA198, autophosphorylates in the presence of ATP and transfers the phosphate to purified SirA. Phosphorylated SirA was found to directly bind the hilA and hilC promoters in gel mobility shift assays but not the flhD, fliA, hilD, and invF promoters. Given that the CsrA/csrB system is known to directly affect flagellar gene expression, we tested the hypothesis that SirA affects flagellar gene expression indirectly by regulating csrA or csrB. The sirA gene did not regulate csrA but did activate csrB expression. Consistent with these results, phosphorylated SirA was found to directly bind the csrB promoter but not the csrA promoter. We propose a model in which SirA directly activates virulence expression via hilA and hilC while repressing the flagellar regulon indirectly via csrB.
Project description:Shigella strains are nonmotile. The master operon of flagellar synthesis, flhDC, was analyzed for genetic damage in 46 Shigella strains representing all known serotypes. In 11 strains (B1, B3, B6, B8, B10, B18, D5, F1B, D10, F3A, and F3C) the flhDC operon was completely deleted. PCR and sequence analysis of the flhDC region of the remaining 35 strains revealed many insertions or deletions associated with insertion sequences, and the majority of the strains were found to be defective in their flhDC genes. As these genes also play a role in regulation of non-flagellar genes, the loss may have other consequences or be driven by selection pressures other than those against flagellar motility. It has been suggested that Shigella strains fall mostly into three clusters within Escherichia coli, with five outlier strains, four of which are also within E. coli (G. M. Pupo, R. Lan, and P. R. Reeves, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 97:10567-10572, 2000). The distribution of genetic changes in the flhDC region correlated very well with the three clusters and outlier strains found using housekeeping gene DNA sequences, enabling us to follow the sequence of mutational change in the flhDC locus. Two cluster 2 strains were found to have unique flhDC sequences, which are most probably due to recombination during the exchange of the adjacent O-antigen gene clusters.
Project description:Production of flagella is costly and subject to global multilayered regulation, which is reflected in the hierarchical control of flagellar production in many bacterial species. For Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium and its relatives, global regulation of flagellar production primarily occurs through the control of flhDC transcription and mRNA translation. In this study, the roles of the homologous multidrug resistance regulators MarA, SoxS, Rob, and RamA (constituting the mar-sox-rob regulon in S Typhimurium) in regulating flagellar gene expression were explored. Each of these regulators was found to inhibit flagellar gene expression, production of flagella, and motility. To different degrees, repression via these transcription factors occurred through direct interactions with the flhDC promoter, particularly for MarA and Rob. Additionally, SoxS repressed flagellar gene expression via a posttranscriptional pathway, reducing flhDC translation. The roles of these transcription factors in reducing motility in the presence of salicylic acid were also elucidated, adding a genetic regulatory element to the response of S Typhimurium to this well-characterized chemorepellent. Integration of flagellar gene expression into the mar-sox-rob regulon in S Typhimurium contrasts with findings for closely related species such as Escherichia coli, providing an example of plasticity in the mar-sox-rob regulon throughout the Enterobacteriaceae family.IMPORTANCE The mar-sox-rob regulon is a large and highly conserved stress response network in the Enterobacteriaceae family. Although it is well characterized in E. coli, the extent of this regulon in related species is unclear. Here, the control of costly flagellar gene expression is connected to the mar-sox-rob regulon of S Typhimurium, contrasting with the E. coli regulon model. These findings demonstrate the flexibility of the mar-sox-rob regulon to accommodate novel regulatory targets, and they provide evidence for its broader regulatory role within this family of diverse bacteria.
Project description:H-NS regulates the flagellar master operon (flhDC) and thus is necessary for flagellation of Escherichia coli. However, the molecular mechanism of its regulation has remained unknown. Genetic screening of a transposon insertion abolishing the H-NS effect revealed a previously unidentified gene, named hdfR, encoding a LysR family protein. Binding of purified HdfR to the flhDC promoter was demonstrated by a DNA mobility shift assay, indicating that HdfR is a transcriptional regulator for the flagellar master operon. Furthermore, the expression of the hdfR gene was shown to be negatively regulated by H-NS.
Project description:Bacterial flagellar motility and chemotaxis help cells to reach the most favorable environments and to successfully compete with other micro-organisms in response to external stimuli. Escherichia coli is a motile gram-negative bacterium, and the flagellar regulon in E. coli is controlled by a master regulator FlhDC as well as a second regulator, flagellum-specific sigma factor, sigma(F). To define the physiological role of these two regulators, we carried out transcription profiling experiments to identify, on a genome-wide basis, genes under the control of these two regulators. In addition, the synchronized pattern of increasing CRP activity causing increasing FlhDC expression with decreasing carbon source quality, together with the apparent coupling of motility activity with the activation of motility and chemotaxis genes in poor quality carbon sources, highlights the importance of CRP activation in allowing E. coli to devote progressively more of its limited reserves to search out better conditions. In adaptation to a variety of carbon sources, the motile bacteria carry out tactical responses by increasing flagellar operation but restricting costly flagellar synthesis, indicating its capability of strategically using the precious energy in nutrient-poor environments for maximizing survival.