Salmonella expresses foreign genes during infection by degrading their silencer

Jeongjoon Choi, Eduardo A. Groisman
2020 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America  
The heat-stable nucleoid structuring (H-NS, also referred to as histone-like nucleoid structuring) protein silences transcription of foreign genes in a variety of Gram-negative bacterial species. To take advantage of the products encoded in foreign genes, bacteria must overcome the silencing effects of H-NS. Because H-NS amounts are believed to remain constant, overcoming gene silencing has largely been ascribed to proteins that outcompete H-NS for binding to AT-rich foreign DNA. However, we
more » ... DNA. However, we report here that the facultative intracellular pathogen Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium decreases H-NS amounts 16-fold when inside macrophages. This decrease requires both the protease Lon and the DNA-binding virulence regulator PhoP. The decrease in H-NS abundance reduces H-NS binding to foreign DNA, allowing transcription of foreign genes, including those required for intramacrophage survival. The purified Lon protease degraded free H-NS but not DNA-bound H-NS. By displacing H-NS from DNA, the PhoP protein promoted H-NS proteolysis, thereby de-repressing foreign genes—even those whose regulatory sequences are not bound by PhoP. The uncovered mechanism enables a pathogen to express foreign virulence genes during infection without the need to evolve binding sites for antisilencing proteins at each foreign gene.
doi:10.1073/pnas.1912808117 pmid:32209674 fatcat:ansgbquyl5gvfkmk7cwiphjioy