Regulation of natural competence by the orphan two-component system sensor kinase ChiS involves a non-canonical transmembrane regulator in Vibrio cholerae

Department of Bacteriology I, National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Toyama 1-23-1, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 162-8640, Japan.
Molecular Microbiology (Impact Factor: 5.03). 11/2013; 91(2). DOI: 10.1111/mmi.12462
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT In Vibrio cholerae, 41 chitin-inducible genes, including the genes involved in natural competence for DNA uptake, are governed by the orphan two-component system (TCS) sensor kinase ChiS. However, the mechanism by which ChiS controls the expression of these genes is currently unknown. Here, we report the involvement of a novel transcriptional factor termed 'TfoS' in this process. TfoS is a transmembrane protein that contains a large periplasmic domain and a cytoplasmic AraC-type DNA-binding domain, but lacks TCS signature domains. Inactivation of tfoS abolished natural competence as well as transcription of the tfoR gene encoding a chitin-induced small RNA essential for competence gene expression. A TfoS fragment containing the DNA-binding domain specifically bound to and activated transcription from the tfoR promoter. Intracellular TfoS levels were unaffected by disruption of chiS and co-expression of TfoS and ChiS in Escherichia coli recovered transcription of the chromosomally integrated tfoR::lacZ gene, suggesting that TfoS is post-translationally modulated by ChiS during transcriptional activation; however, this regulation persisted when the canonical phosphorelay residues of ChiS were mutated. The results presented here suggest that ChiS operates a chitin-induced non-canonical signal transduction cascade through TfoS, leading to transcriptional activation of tfoR.

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