The transition from a planktonic lifestyle to a host-attached state is often critical for bacterial virulence. Upon attachment to host cells, enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) employs a type III secretion system (T3SS) to inject into the host cells ~20 effector proteins, including Tir. CesT, which is encoded from the same operon downstream of tir, is a Tir-bound chaperone that facilitates Tir translocation. Upon Tir translocation, the liberated CesT remains in the bacterial cytoplasm and antagonizes the posttranscriptional regulator CsrA, thus eliciting global regulation in the infecting pathogen. Importantly, tight control of the Tir/CesT ratio is vital, since an uncontrolled surge in free CesT levels may repress CsrA in an untimely manner, thus abrogating colonization. We investigated how fluctuations in Tir translation affect the regulation of this ratio. By creating mutations that cause the premature termination of Tir translation, we revealed that the untranslated tir mRNA becomes highly unstable, resulting in a rapid drop in cesT mRNA levels and, thus, CesT levels. This mechanism couples Tir and CesT levels to ensure a stable Tir/CesT ratio. Our results expose an additional level of regulation that enhances the efficacy of the initial interaction of EPEC with the host cell, providing a better understanding of the bacterial switch from the planktonic to the cell-adherent lifestyle. IMPORTANCE Host colonization by extracellular pathogens often entails the transition from a planktonic lifestyle to a host-attached state. Enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC), a Gram-negative pathogen, attaches to the intestinal epithelium of the host and employs a type III secretion system (T3SS) to inject effector proteins into the cytoplasm of infected cells. The most abundant effector protein injected is Tir, whose translocation is dependent on the Tir-bound chaperon CesT. Upon Tir injection, the liberated CesT binds to and inhibits the posttranscriptional regulator CsrA, resulting in reprogramming of gene expression in the host-attached bacteria. Thus, adaptation to the host-attached state involves dynamic remodeling of EPEC gene expression, which is mediated by the relative levels of Tir and CesT. Fluctuating from the optimal Tir/CesT ratio results in a decrease in EPEC virulence. Here we elucidate a posttranscriptional circuit that prevents sharp variations from this ratio, thus improving host colonization.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We declare no conflict of interest. We are grateful to M. Donnenberg and J. Kaper (University of Maryland, USA), G. Frankel (Imperial College, UK), and B. Kenny (Newcastle University, UK) for providing bacterial strains, plasmids, and antibodies and to S. Altuvia and S. Ben-Yehuda (Hebrew University, IL) for valuable insights. We are thankful to members of the I. Rosenshine laboratory for valuable discussions and comments. This work was supported by grants from the Israel Science Foundation (grants 743/18 and 617/15) and ERC Synergy (grant 810186).
This work was supported by grants from the Israel Science Foundation (grants 743/18 and 617/15) and ERC Synergy (grant 810186).
© 2019 Elbaz et al.
- Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli
- Type III secretion system