Robert N Husson

Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, United States

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Publications (40)187.38 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Mycobacterium tuberculosis possesses a proteasome system that is required for the microbe to resist elimination by the host immune system. Despite the importance of the proteasome in the pathogenesis of tuberculosis, the molecular mechanisms by which proteasome activity is controlled remain largely unknown. Here, we demonstrate that the α-subunit (PrcA) of the M. tuberculosis proteasome is phosphorylated by the PknB kinase at three threonine residues (T84, T202, and T178) in a sequential manner. Furthermore, the proteasome with phosphorylated PrcA enhances the degradation of Ino1, a known proteasomal substrate, suggesting that PknB regulates the proteolytic activity of the proteasome. Previous studies showed that depletion of the proteasome and the proteasome-associated proteins decreases resistance to reactive nitrogen intermediates (RNIs) but increases resistance to hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). Here we show that PknA phosphorylation of unprocessed proteasome β-subunit (pre-PrcB) and α-subunit reduces the assembly of the proteasome complex and thereby enhances the mycobacterial resistance to H2O2 and that H2O2 stress diminishes the formation of the proteasome complex in a PknA-dependent manner. These findings indicate that phosphorylation of the M. tuberculosis proteasome not only modulates proteolytic activity of the proteasome, but also affects the proteasome complex formation contributing to the survival of M. tuberculosis under oxidative stress conditions.
    The Journal of Microbiology 09/2014; 52(9):743-54. · 1.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: To persist and cause disease in the host, Mycobacterium tuberculosis must adapt to its environment during infection. These adaptations include changes in nutrient utilization and alterations in growth rate. M tuberculosis Rv1422 is a conserved gene of unknown function that was found in a genetic screen to interact with the mce4 cholesterol uptake locus. Rv1422 protein is phosphorylated by the M. tuberculosis Ser/Thr kinases PknA and PknB, which regulate cell growth and cell wall synthesis. Bacillus subtilis strains lacking the Rv1422 homologue yvcK grow poorly on several carbon sources, and yvcK is required for proper localization of peptidoglycan synthesis. Here, we show that M. smegmatis and M. tuberculosis strains lacking Rv1422 have growth defects in minimal medium containing limiting amounts of several different carbon sources. These strains also have morphologic abnormalities, including shortened and bulging cells, findings that suggest a cell wall defect. In both mycobacterial species, Rv1422 localizes uniquely to the growing cell pole, the site of peptidoglycan synthesis in mycobacteria. M. tuberculosis ΔRv1422 is markedly attenuated for virulence in a mouse infection model, where it elicits decreased inflammation in the lungs and shows impaired bacterial persistence. These findings lead us to name this gene cuvA (carbon utilization and virulence protein A) and suggest a model in which deletion of cuvA leads to changes in nutrient uptake and/or metabolism that affect cell wall structure, morphology and virulence. Its role in virulence suggests that CuvA may be a useful target for novel inhibitors of M. tuberculosis during infection.
    Infection and immunity. 07/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: The Mycobacterium tuberculosis genome contains an unusually high number of toxin-antitoxin modules, some of which have been suggested to play a role in the establishment and maintenance of latent tuberculosis. Nine of these toxin-antitoxin loci belong to the mazEF family, encoding the intracellular toxin MazF and its antitoxin inhibitor MazE. Nearly every MazF ortholog recognizes a unique three- or five-base RNA sequence and cleaves mRNA. As a result, these toxins selectively target a subset of the transcriptome for degradation and are known as "mRNA interferases." Here we demonstrate that a MazF family member from M. tuberculosis, MazF-mt6, has an additional role-inhibiting translation through targeted cleavage of 23S rRNA in the evolutionarily conserved helix/loop 70. We first determined that MazF-mt6 cleaves mRNA at (5)(')UU↓CCU(3') sequences. We then discovered that MazF-mt6 also cleaves M. tuberculosis 23S rRNA at a single UUCCU in the ribosomal A site that contacts tRNA and ribosome recycling factor. To gain further mechanistic insight, we demonstrated that MazF-mt6-mediated cleavage of rRNA can inhibit protein synthesis in the absence of mRNA cleavage. Finally, consistent with the position of 23S rRNA cleavage, MazF-mt6 destabilized 50S-30S ribosomal subunit association. Collectively, these results show that MazF toxins do not universally act as mRNA interferases, because MazF-mt6 inhibits protein synthesis by cleaving 23S rRNA in the ribosome active center.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 05/2013; · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The identification of protein kinase targets remains a significant bottleneck for our understanding of signal transduction in normal and diseased cellular states. Kinases recognize their substrates in part through sequence motifs on substrate proteins, which, to date, have most effectively been elucidated using combinatorial peptide library approaches. Here, we present and demonstrate the ProPeL method for easy and accurate discovery of kinase specificity motifs through the use of native bacterial proteomes that serve as in vivo libraries for thousands of simultaneous phosphorylation reactions. Using recombinant kinases expressed in E. coli followed by mass spectrometry, the approach accurately recapitulated the well-established motif preferences of human basophilic (Protein Kinase A) and acidophilic (Casein Kinase II) kinases. These motifs, derived for PKA and CK II using only bacterial sequence data, were then further validated by utilizing them in conjunction with the scan-x software program to computationally predict known human phosphorylation sites with high confidence.
    PLoS ONE 12/2012; 7(12):e52747. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We report a remarkably good outcome in a 14-month-old boy with early clinical diagnosis and aggressive empirical treatment of neural larva migrans caused by the raccoon roundworm Baylisascaris procyonis. He presented with fever, meningismus, lethargy, irritability and asymmetric spastic extremity weakness. Early findings of marked blood and cerebrospinal fluid eosinophilia and of diffuse white matter signal abnormality in the brain and spinal cord on MRI suggested a parasitic encephalomyelitis. Rapid presumptive treatment with albendazole and high-dose steroids halted progression of clinical signs. The diagnosis was confirmed by 2 sequential enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay studies positive for B procyonis serum immunoglobulin G and by Western blot. Field examination with soil sampling yielded infective Baylisascaris eggs. Repeat MRI 3 months later showed atrophy and diffuse, chronic white matter abnormalities, discordant with the marked clinical improvement in this interval. At 10 months, residual neurologic deficits included subtle paraparesis and moderate language delay. This case is the first in which spinal involvement in human Baylisascaris infection was clinically suspected and confirmed by neuroimaging. Importantly, early diagnosis and aggressive treatment of Baylisascaris meningo-encephalitis and myelitis with albendazole and high-dose steroids likely contributed to the good outcome in this patient, in contrast with previous reports.
    PEDIATRICS 03/2012; 129(3):e806-11. · 4.47 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The Mycobacterium tuberculosis genome harbors an unusually large number of toxin-antitoxin (TA) modules. Curiously, over half of these are VapBC (virulence-associated protein) family members. Nonetheless, the cellular target, precise mode of action, and physiological role of the VapC toxins in this important pathogen remain unclear. To better understand the function of this toxin family, we studied the features and biochemical properties of a prototype M. tuberculosis VapBC TA system, vapBC-mt4 (Rv0596c-Rv0595c). VapC-mt4 expression resulted in growth arrest, a hallmark of all TA toxins, in Escherichia coli, Mycobacterium smegmatis, and M. tuberculosis. Its expression led to translation inhibition accompanied by a gradual decrease in the steady-state levels of several mRNAs. VapC-mt4 exhibited sequence-specific endoribonuclease activity on mRNA templates at ACGC and AC(A/U)GC sequences. However, the cleavage activity of VapC-mt4 was comparatively weak relative to the TA toxin MazF-mt1 (Rv2801c). Unlike other TA toxins, translation inhibition and growth arrest preceded mRNA cleavage, suggesting that the RNA binding property of VapC-mt4, not RNA cleavage, initiates toxicity. In support of this hypothesis, expression of VapC-mt4 led to an increase in the recovery of total RNA with time in contrast to TA toxins that inhibit translation via direct mRNA cleavage. Additionally, VapC-mt4 exhibited stable, sequence-specific RNA binding in an electrophoretic mobility shift assay. Finally, VapC-mt4 inhibited protein synthesis in a cell-free system without cleaving the corresponding mRNA. Therefore, the activity of VapC-mt4 is mechanistically distinct from other TA toxins because it appears to primarily inhibit translation through selective, stable binding to RNA.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 02/2012; 287(16):12835-47. · 4.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: [This corrects the article on p. e31307 in vol. 7.].
    PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(4). · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Due to the inexorable invasion of our hospitals and communities by drug-resistant bacteria, there is a pressing need for novel antibacterial agents. Here we report the development of a sensitive and robust but low-tech and inexpensive high-throughput metabolic screen for novel antibiotics. This screen is based on a colorimetric assay of pH that identifies inhibitors of bacterial sugar fermentation. After validation of the method, we screened over 39,000 crude extracts derived from organisms that grow in the diverse ecosystems of Costa Rica and identified 49 with reproducible antibacterial effects. An extract from an endophytic fungus was further characterized, and this led to the discovery of three novel natural products. One of these, which we named mirandamycin, has broad-spectrum antibacterial activity against Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Vibrio cholerae, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. This demonstrates the power of simple high throughput screens for rapid identification of new antibacterial agents from environmental samples.
    PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(2):e31307. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The Mycobacterium tuberculosis Ser/Thr kinase PknB has been implicated in the regulation of cell growth and morphology in this organism. The extracytoplasmic domain of this membrane protein comprises four penicillin binding protein and Ser/Thr kinase associated (PASTA) domains, which are predicted to bind stem peptides of peptidoglycan. Using a comprehensive library of synthetic muropeptides, we demonstrate that the extracytoplasmic domain of PknB binds muropeptides in a manner dependent on the presence of specific amino acids at the second and third positions of the stem peptide, and on the presence of the sugar moiety N-acetylmuramic acid linked to the peptide. We further show that PknB localizes strongly to the mid-cell and also to the cell poles, and that the extracytoplasmic domain is required for PknB localization. In contrast to strong growth stimulation by conditioned medium, we observe no growth stimulation of M. tuberculosis by a synthetic muropeptide with high affinity for the PknB PASTAs. We do find a moderate effect of a high affinity peptide on resuscitation of dormant cells. While the PASTA domains of PknB may play a role in stimulating growth by binding exogenous peptidoglycan fragments, our data indicate that a major function of these domains is for proper PknB localization, likely through binding of peptidoglycan fragments produced locally at the mid-cell and the cell poles. These data suggest a model in which PknB is targeted to the sites of peptidoglycan turnover to regulate cell growth and cell division.
    PLoS Pathogens 07/2011; 7(7):e1002182. · 8.14 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: While protein kinases are key components in multiple cellular processes, efficient identification of cognate in vivo substrates remains challenging. Here we describe a powerful method to screen potential substrates of protein kinases by partial transfer of proteins from a 2D-PAGE gel to a Western blot membrane. This approach allowed precise pinpointing of candidate substrate spots in the 2D gel, and identifying physiological substrates of protein kinases in Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
    The Journal of Microbiology 06/2011; 49(3):499-501. · 1.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The Mycobacterium tuberculosis genome encodes 11 serine/threonine protein kinases (STPKs) that are structurally related to eukaryotic kinases. To gain insight into the role of Ser/Thr phosphorylation in this major global pathogen, we used a phosphoproteomic approach to carry out an extensive analysis of protein phosphorylation in M. tuberculosis. We identified more than 500 phosphorylation events in 301 proteins that are involved in a broad range of functions. Bioinformatic analysis of quantitative in vitro kinase assays on peptides containing a subset of these phosphorylation sites revealed a dominant motif shared by six of the M. tuberculosis STPKs. Kinase assays on a second set of peptides incorporating targeted substitutions surrounding the phosphoacceptor validated this motif and identified additional residues preferred by individual kinases. Our data provide insight into processes regulated by STPKs in M. tuberculosis and create a resource for understanding how specific phosphorylation events modulate protein activity. The results further provide the potential to predict likely cognate STPKs for newly identified phosphoproteins.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 04/2010; 107(16):7521-6. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    Sang Tae Park, Choong-Min Kang, Robert N Husson
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    ABSTRACT: SigH is a key regulator of an extensive transcriptional network that responds to oxidative, nitrosative, and heat stresses in Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and this sigma factor is required for virulence in animal models of infection. SigH is negatively regulated by RshA, its cognate anti-sigma factor, which functions as a stress sensor and redox switch. While RshA provides a direct mechanism for sensing stress and activating transcription, bacteria use several types of signal transduction systems to sense the external environment. M. tuberculosis encodes several serine-threonine protein kinase signaling molecules, 2 of which, PknA and PknB, are essential and have been shown to regulate cell morphology and cell wall synthesis. In this work, we demonstrate that SigH and RshA are phosphorylated in vitro and in vivo by PknB. We show that phosphorylation of RshA, but not SigH, interferes with the interaction of these 2 proteins in vitro. Consistent with this finding, negative regulation of SigH activity by RshA in vivo is partially relieved in strains in which pknB is over-expressed, resulting in increased resistance to oxidative stress. These findings demonstrate an interaction between the signaling pathways mediated by PknB and the stress response regulon controlled by SigH. The intersection of these apparently discrete regulatory systems provides a mechanism by which limited activation of the SigH-dependent stress response in M. tuberculosis can be achieved. Coordination of the PknB and SigH regulatory pathways through phosphorylation of RshA may lead to adaptive responses that are important in the pathogenesis of M. tuberculosis infection.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 10/2008; 105(35):13105-10. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The ability to ectopically control gene expression is a fundamental tool for the study of bacterial physiology and pathogenesis. While many efficient inducible expression systems are available for Gram-negative bacteria, few are useful in phylogenetically distant organisms, such as mycobacteria. We have adapted a highly-inducible regulon of Rhodococcus rhodochrous to artificially regulate gene expression in both rapidly-growing environmental mycobacteria and slow-growing pathogens, such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis. We demonstrate that this artificial regulatory circuit behaves as a bistable switch, which can be manipulated regardless of growth phase in vitro, and during intracellular growth in macrophages. High-level overexpression is also possible, facilitating biochemical and structural studies of mycobacterial proteins produced in their native host.
    Tuberculosis (Edinburgh, Scotland) 10/2008; 89(1):12-6. · 2.54 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: mRNA interferases are sequence-specific endoribonucleases encoded by toxin-antitoxin (TA) systems in bacterial genomes. Previously, we demonstrated that Mycobacterium tuberculosis contains at least seven genes encoding MazF homologues (MazF-mt1 to -mt7) and determined cleavage specificities for MazF-mt1 and MazF-mt6. Here we have developed a new general method for the determination of recognition sequences longer than three bases for mRNA interferases with the use of phage MS2 RNA as a substrate and CspA, an RNA chaperone, which prevents the formation of secondary structures in the RNA substrate. Using this method, we determined that MazF-mt3 cleaves RNA at UU CCU or CU CCU and MazF-mt7 at U CGCU ( indicates the cleavage site). As pentad sequence recognition is more specific than those of previously characterized mRNA interferases, bioinformatics analysis was carried out to identify M. tuberculosis mRNAs that may be resistant to MazF-mt3 and MazF-mt7 cleavage. The pentad sequence was found to be significantly underrepresented in several genes, including members of the PE and PPE families, large families of proteins that play a role in tuberculosis immunity and pathogenesis. These data suggest that MazF-mt3 and MazF-mt7 or other mRNA interferases that target longer RNA sequences may alter protein expression through differential mRNA degradation, a regulatory mechanism that may allow adaptation to environmental conditions, including those encountered by pathogens such as M. tuberculosis during infection.
    Molecular Microbiology 06/2008; 69(3):559-69. · 5.03 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The Mycobacterium tuberculosis genome contains 11 serine/threonine kinase genes, and the products of two of these, PknA and PknB, are key components of a signal transduction pathway that regulates cell division and/or morphology. Previously, we have shown that one substrate of these kinases is Wag31, a homologue of the cell division protein DivIVA that is present, but not known to be phosphorylated, in other Gram-positive bacteria. Here, we investigate the localization and function of Wag31 and its phosphorylation. We demonstrate that Wag31 is localized to the cell poles. We further show that wag31 is an essential gene and that depletion of its product causes a dramatic morphological change in which one end of the cell becomes round rather than rod-shaped. This abnormal morphology appears to be caused by a defect in polar peptidoglycan synthesis. Finally, expression of M. tuberculosis wag31 in the wag31 conditional mutant of Mycobacterium smegmatis altered the growth rate in a manner that depended on the phospho-acceptor residue encoded by the allele being expressed. Taken together, these results indicate that Wag31 regulates cell shape and cell wall synthesis in M. tuberculosis through a molecular mechanism by which the activity of Wag31 can be modulated in response to environmental signals.
    Microbiology 04/2008; 154(Pt 3):725-35. · 2.85 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mycobacterial SigE and SigH both initiate transcription from the sigB promoter, suggesting that they recognize similar sequences. Through mutational and primer extension analyses, we determined that SigE and SigH recognize nearly identical promoters, with differences at the 3' end of the -35 element distinguishing between SigE- and SigH-dependent promoters.
    Journal of bacteriology 04/2008; 190(6):2227-30. · 3.94 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mycobacterium leprae, a major human pathogen, grows poorly at 37 degrees C. The basis for its inability to survive at elevated temperatures was investigated. We determined that M. leprae lacks a protective heat shock response as a result of the lack of transcriptional induction of the alternative sigma factor genes sigE and sigB and the major heat shock operons, HSP70 and HSP60, even though heat shock promoters and regulatory circuits for these genes appear to be intact. M. leprae sigE was found to be capable of complementing the defective heat shock response of mycobacterial sigE knockout mutants only in the presence of a functional mycobacterial sigH, which orchestrates the mycobacterial heat shock response. Since the sigH of M. leprae is a pseudogene, these data support the conclusion that a key aspect of the defective heat shock response in M. leprae is the absence of a functional sigH. In addition, 68% of the genes induced during heat shock in M. tuberculosis were shown to be either absent from the M. leprae genome or were present as pseudogenes. Among these is the hsp/acr2 gene, whose product is essential for M. tuberculosis survival during heat shock. Taken together, these results suggest that the reduced ability of M. leprae to survive at elevated temperatures results from the lack of a functional transcriptional response to heat shock and the absence of a full repertoire of heat stress response genes, including sigH.
    Journal of bacteriology 01/2008; 189(24):8818-27. · 3.94 Impact Factor
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    Robert N Husson
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    ABSTRACT: Regulation of transcription by alternative sigma factors is a strategy widely used by bacteria to adapt to changes in environmental conditions. For several pathogenic bacteria, alternative sigma factor-regulated gene expression is critical for virulence. The activity of many alternative sigma factors is in turn controlled by regulatory proteins that transduce and integrate environmental signals. In this issue of Molecular Microbiology, Said-Salim et al. demonstrate high-level expression of genes encoding major protein antigens in the bovine subspecies of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, in contrast to low-level expression in the human subspecies. Having previously suggested that SigK regulates the expression of these genes, the authors found that the high-expressers have point mutations in Rv0444c, a gene adjacent to sigK, and provided evidence that this gene encodes an anti-sigma factor whose function is abrogated by these mutations. These findings not only demonstrate an adaptive mechanism of potential importance in tuberculosis immunity and pathogenesis, but also raise interesting questions regarding the origin of these mutations and their effects on anti-sigma factor function.
    Molecular Microbiology 01/2007; 62(5):1217-9. · 5.03 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The Mycobacterium tuberculosis genome encodes 12 alternative sigma factors, several of which regulate stress responses and are required for virulence in animal models of acute infection. In this work we investigated M. tuberculosis SigM, a member of the extracytoplasmic function subfamily of alternative sigma factors. This sigma factor is expressed at low levels in vitro and does not appear to function in stress response regulation. Instead, SigM positively regulates genes required for the synthesis of surface or secreted molecules. Among these are genes encoding two pairs of Esx secreted proteins, a multisubunit nonribosomal peptide synthetase operon, and genes encoding two members of the proline-proline-glutamate (PPE) family of proteins. Genes up regulated in a sigM mutant strain include a different PPE gene, as well as several genes involved in surface lipid synthesis. Among these are genes involved in synthesis of phthiocerol dimycocerosate (PDIM), a surface lipid critical for virulence during acute infection, and the kasA-kasB operon, which is required for mycolic acid synthesis. Analysis of surface lipids showed that PDIM synthesis is increased in a sigM-disrupted strain and is undetectable in a sigM overexpression strain. These findings demonstrate that SigM positively and negatively regulates cell surface and secreted molecules that are likely to function in host-pathogen interactions.
    Journal of Bacteriology 01/2007; 188(24):8460-8. · 3.19 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mycobacterium tuberculosis sigL encodes an extracytoplasmic function (ECF) sigma factor and is adjacent to a gene for a membrane protein (Rv0736) that contains a conserved HXXXCXXC sequence. This motif is found in anti-sigma factors that regulate several ECF sigma factors, including those that control oxidative stress responses. In this work, SigL and Rv0736 were found to be cotranscribed, and the intracellular domain of Rv0736 was shown to interact specifically with SigL, suggesting that Rv0736 may encode an anti-sigma factor of SigL. An M. tuberculosis sigL mutant was not more susceptible than the parental strain to several oxidative and nitrosative stresses, and sigL expression was not increased in response to these stresses. In vivo, sigL is expressed from a weak SigL-independent promoter and also from a second SigL-dependent promoter. To identify SigL-regulated genes, sigL was overexpressed and microarray analysis of global transcription was performed. Four small operons, sigL (Rv0735)-Rv0736, mpt53 (Rv2878c)-Rv2877c, pks10 (Rv1660)-pks7 (Rv1661), and Rv1139c-Rv1138c, were among the most highly upregulated genes in the sigL-overexpressing strain. SigL-dependent transcription start sites of these operons were mapped, and the consensus promoter sequences TGAACC in the -35 region and CGTgtc in the -10 region were identified. In vitro, purified SigL specifically initiated transcription from the promoters of sigL, mpt53, and pks10. Additional genes, including four PE_PGRS genes, appear to be regulated indirectly by SigL. In an in vivo murine infection model, the sigL mutant strain showed marked attenuation, indicating that the sigL regulon is important in M. tuberculosis pathogenesis.
    Journal of Bacteriology 11/2005; 187(20):7062-71. · 3.19 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

2k Citations
187.38 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 1999–2014
    • Boston Children's Hospital
      • • Division of Infectious Diseases
      • • Department of Radiology
      Boston, Massachusetts, United States
    • University of Tennessee
      Knoxville, Tennessee, United States
  • 1997–2011
    • Harvard Medical School
      • • Department of Genetics
      • • Department of Pediatrics
      Boston, Massachusetts, United States
  • 2008
    • Yonsei University Hospital
      Sŏul, Seoul, South Korea
    • Louisiana State University
      Baton Rouge, Louisiana, United States
    • Wayne State University
      • Department of Biological Sciences
      Detroit, MI, United States
  • 2007
    • Brigham and Women's Hospital
      • Division of Rheumatology, Immunology, and Allergy
      Boston, Massachusetts, United States
  • 1990–1993
    • Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research
      • Department of Biology
      Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States