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Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) O157:H7 causes bloody diarrhea and hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS) and is the most prevalent E. coli serotype associated with food-borne illness worldwide. This pathogen is transmitted via the fecal-oral route and has a low infectious dose that has been estimated to be between 10 and 100 cells. We and others have previously identified three prophage-encoded AraC-like transcriptional regulators, PatE, PsrA, and PsrB in the EHEC O157:H7 EDL933 strain. Our analysis showed that PatE plays an important role in facilitating survival of EHEC under a number of acidic conditions, but the contribution of PsrA and PsrB to acid resistance (AR) was unknown. Here, we investigated the involvement of PsrA and PsrB in the survival of E. coli O157:H7 in acid. Our results showed that PsrB, but not PsrA, enhanced the survival of strain EDL933 under various acidic conditions. Transcriptional analysis using promoter-lacZ reporters and electrophoretic mobility shift assays demonstrated that PsrB activates transcription of the hdeA operon, which encodes a major acid stress chaperone, by interacting with its promoter region. Furthermore, using a mouse model, we showed that expression of PsrB significantly enhanced the ability of strain EDL933 to overcome the acidic barrier of the mouse stomach. Taken together, our results indicate that EDL933 acquired enhanced acid tolerance via horizontally acquired regulatory genes encoding transcriptional regulators that activate its AR machinery.
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