Characterization of the mrgRS locus of the opportunistic pathogen Burkholderia pseudomallei: temperature regulates the expression of a two-component signal transduction system
Mahfouz ME., Grayson TH., Dance DAB., Gilpin ML.
Abstract Background Burkholderia pseudomallei is a saprophyte in tropical environments and an opportunistic human pathogen. This versatility requires a sensing mechanism that allows the bacterium to respond rapidly to altered environmental conditions. We characterized a two-component signal transduction locus from B. pseudomallei 204, mrgR and mrgS, encoding products with extensive homology with response regulators and histidine protein kinases of Escherichia coli, Bordetella pertussis, and Vibrio cholerae. Results The locus was present and expressed in a variety of B. pseudomallei human and environmental isolates but was absent from other Burkholderia species, B. cepacia, B. cocovenenans, B. plantarii, B. thailandensis, B. vandii, and B. vietnamiensis. A 2128 bp sequence, including the full response regulator mrgR, but not the sensor kinase mrgS, was present in the B. mallei genome. Restriction fragment length polymorphism downstream from mrgRS showed two distinct groups were present among B. pseudomallei isolates. Our analysis of the open reading frames in this region of the genome revealed that transposase and bacteriophage activity may help explain this variation. MrgR and MrgS proteins were expressed in B. pseudomallei 204 cultured at different pH, salinity and temperatures and the expression was substantially reduced at 25°C compared with 37°C or 42°C but was mostly unaffected by pH or salinity, although at 25°C and 0.15% NaCl a small increase in MrgR expression was observed at pH 5. MrgR was recognized by antibodies in convalescent sera pooled from melioidosis patients. Conclusion The results suggest that mrgRS regulates an adaptive response to temperature that may be essential for pathogenesis, particularly during the initial phases of infection. B. pseudomallei and B. mallei are very closely related species that differ in their capacity to adapt to changing environmental conditions. Modifications in this region of the genome may assist our understanding of the reasons for this difference.