Elongation factor P (EF-P) is a universally conserved bacterial translation factor. In many bacteria, EF-P is posttranslationally modified by PoxA, which covalently attaches a β-lysine to a conserved lysine residue of EF-P. Here we show that both EF-P and PoxA are necessary for virulence of the human diarrheal pathogen Shigella flexneri. Loss of either EF-P or PoxA leads to an impaired ability of S. flexneri to invade epithelial cells and form plaques in an epithelial cell monolayer. Proteomic analysis of efp and poxA deletion mutants revealed decreased levels of several virulence effector proteins, including IpaA, -B, and -C and IcsA. Additionally, mRNA levels of virB and virF, which encode master virulence regulators, were decreased in the efp mutant. The reduction in virF transcription was at least partially due to decreased levels of CpxA, which activates virF through the response regulator CpxR. The role of CpxAR in reduced synthesis of VirF and its downstream effectors was indicated by restoration of invasion when a mutation resulting in constitutively activated CpxR was introduced into the efp mutant. Thus, modified EF-P is required for appropriate synthesis of proteins involved in the virulence of this bacterial pathogen.
Iron is an essential nutrient for most bacteria. Depending on the oxygen available in the surrounding environment, iron is found in two distinct forms: ferrous (Fe(II)) or ferric (Fe(III)). Bacteria utilize different transport systems for the uptake of the two different forms of iron. In oxic growth conditions, iron is found in its insoluble, ferric form, and in anoxic growth conditions iron is found in its soluble, ferrous form. Enterobacteriaceae have adapted to transporting the two forms of iron by utilizing the global, oxygen-sensing regulators, ArcA and Fnr to regulate iron transport genes in response to oxygen.
Shigella flexneri, which replicates in the cytoplasm of intestinal epithelial cells, can use the Embden-Meyerhof-Parnas, Entner-Doudoroff, or pentose phosphate pathway for glycolytic carbon metabolism. To determine which of these pathways is used by intracellular S. flexneri, mutants were constructed and tested in a plaque assay for the ability to invade, replicate intracellularly, and spread to adjacent epithelial cells. Mutants blocked in the Embden-Meyerhof-Parnas pathway (pfkAB and pykAF mutants) invaded the cells but formed very small plaques. Loss of the Entner-Doudoroff pathway gene eda resulted in small plaques, but the double eda edd mutant formed normal-size plaques. This suggested that the plaque defect of the eda mutant was due to buildup of the toxic intermediate 2-keto-3-deoxy-6-phosphogluconic acid rather than a specific requirement for this pathway. Loss of the pentose phosphate pathway had no effect on plaque formation, indicating that it is not critical for intracellular S. flexneri. Supplementation of the epithelial cell culture medium with pyruvate allowed the glycolysis mutants to form larger plaques than those observed with unsupplemented medium, consistent with data from phenotypic microarrays (Biolog) indicating that pyruvate metabolism was not disrupted in these mutants. Interestingly, the wild-type S. flexneri also formed larger plaques in the presence of supplemental pyruvate or glucose, with pyruvate yielding the largest plaques. Analysis of the metabolites in the cultured cells showed increased intracellular levels of the added compound. Pyruvate increased the growth rate of S. flexneri in vitro, suggesting that it may be a preferred carbon source inside host cells.
The Vps/VacJ ABC transporter system is proposed to function in maintaining the lipid asymmetry of the outer membrane. Mutations in vps or vacJ in Shigella flexneri resulted in increased sensitivity to lysis by the detergent sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS), and the vpsC mutant showed minor differences in its phospholipid profile compared to the wild type. vpsC mutants were unable to form plaques in cultured epithelial cells, but this was not due to a failure to invade, to replicate intracellularly, or to polymerize actin via IcsA for movement within epithelial cells. The addition of the outer membrane phospholipase gene pldA on a multicopy plasmid in a vpsC or vacJ mutant restored its resistance to SDS, suggesting a restoration of lipid asymmetry to the outer membrane. However, the pldA plasmid did not restore the mutant's ability to form plaques in tissue culture cells. Increased PldA levels also failed to restore the mutant's phospholipid profile to that of the wild type. We propose a dual function of the Vps/VacJ ABC transporter system in S. flexneri in both the maintenance of lipid asymmetry in the outer membrane and the intercellular spread of the bacteria between adjacent epithelial cells.