Journal of bacteriology

The extracytoplasmic function sigma factor EcfO protects Bacteroides fragilis against oxidative stress.

PMID 23104808


The anaerobe Bacteroides fragilis is a highly aerotolerant, opportunistic pathogen that is an important component of the human intestinal microbiota. Aerotolerance has been linked to a robust oxidative stress response, which in turn is necessary for maximal virulence in a mouse intra-abdominal abscess model. During oxidative stress, there is a dynamic change in gene expression that encompasses a third of the genome, but there is a paucity of information on factors that control this response. A large number of transcription regulators, including about 14 extracytoplasmic function (ECF) sigma factors, are affected by oxidative stress, and one of these, EcfO, was used as a model of ECF sigma factor activity during stress. Genetic and biochemical experiments showed that EcfO was located in an operon with a structurally unique anti-sigma factor, Reo. Cells deleted for EcfO were impaired during exposure to oxygen or other forms of oxidative stress, whereas reo mutants were more resistant to stress. Protein-protein interaction experiments demonstrated that Reo directly interacts with and regulates the activity of EcfO. Expression microarray and chromatin affinity precipitation assays were used to identify target genes regulated by EcfO, and an EcfO recognition sequence was identified. The results revealed that EcfO controls a regulon of novel lipoproteins whose distribution in nature is restricted to members of the Bacteroidetes phylum.

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