Transcriptional activation of the mrkA promoter of the Klebsiella pneumoniae type 3 fimbrial operon by the c-di-GMP-dependent MrkH protein

Ji Yang, Jonathan J Wilksch, Jason Tan, Dianna M Hocking, Chaille Webb, Trevor James Lithgow, Roy Michael Robins-Browne, Richard Anthony Strugnell

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The Gram-negative bacterial pathogen Klebsiella pneumoniae forms biofilms to facilitate colonization of biotic and abiotic surfaces. The formation of biofilms by K. pneumoniae requires the expression of type 3 fimbriae: elongate proteinaceous filaments extruded by a chaperone-usher system in the bacterial outer membrane. The expression of the mrkABCDF cluster that encodes this fimbrial system is strongly positively regulated by MrkH, a transcriptional activator that responds to the second messenger, c-di-GMP. In this study, we analyzed the mechanism by which the MrkH protein activates transcriptional initiation from the mrkA promoter. A mutational analysis supported by electrophoretic mobility shift assays demonstrated that a 12-bp palindromic sequence (the MrkH box) centered at -78.5 is the binding site of MrkH. Deletion of half a turn, but not a full turn, of DNA located between the MrkH box and the mrkA promoter destroyed the ability of MrkH to activate mrkA transcription. In addition, a 10-bp AT-rich sequence (the UP element) centered at -63.5 contributed significantly to MrkH-dependent mrkA transcription. In vivo analysis of rpoA mutants showed that the R265 and E273 determinants in the C-terminal domain of RNA polymerase alpha subunit are needed for MrkH-mediated activation of mrkA transcription. Furthermore, results from mutagenesis of the mrkH gene suggest that the N-terminal region of the protein is involved in transcriptional activation. Taken together, our results suggest that MrkH activates mrkA expression by interacting directly with RNA polymerase, to overcome the inefficient transcriptional initiation caused by the presence of defective core promoter elements.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere79038
Number of pages10
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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