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Evaluation of the Role of the opgGH Operon in Yersinia pseudotuberculosis and Its Deletion during the Emergence of Yersinia pestis

Abstract : The opgGH operon encodes glucosyltransferases that synthesize osmoregulated periplasmic glucans (OPGs) from UDP-glucose, using acyl carrier protein (ACP) as a cofactor. OPGs are required for motility, biofilm formation, and virulence in various bacteria. OpgH also sequesters FtsZ in order to regulate cell size according to nutrient availability. Yersinia pestis (the agent of flea-borne plague) lost the opgGH operon during its emergence from the enteropathogen Yersinia pseudotuberculosis. When expressed in OPG-negative strains of Escherichia coli and Dickeya dadantii, opgGH from Y. pseudotuberculosis restored OPGs synthesis, motility, and virulence. However, Y. pseudotuberculosis did not produce OPGs (i) under various growth conditions or (ii) when overexpressing its opgGH operon, its galUF operon (governing UDP-glucose), or the opgGH operon or Acp from E. coli. A ⌬opgGH Y. pseudotuberculosis strain showed normal motility, biofilm formation, resistance to polymyxin and macro-phages, and virulence but was smaller. Consistently, Y. pestis was smaller than Y. pseudotuberculosis when cultured at >37°C, except when the plague bacillus expressed opgGH. Y. pestis expressing opgGH grew normally in serum and within macrophages and was fully virulent in mice, suggesting that small cell size was not advantageous in the mammalian host. Lastly, Y. pestis expressing opgGH was able to infect Xenopsylla cheopis fleas normally. Our results suggest an evolutionary scenario whereby an ancestral Yersinia strain lost a factor required for OPG biosynthesis but kept opgGH (to regulate cell size). The opgGH operon was presumably then lost because OpgH-dependent cell size control became unnecessary.
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Kévin Quintard, Amélie Dewitte, Angéline Reboul, Edwige Madec, Sébastien Bontemps­-Gallo, et al.. Evaluation of the Role of the opgGH Operon in Yersinia pseudotuberculosis and Its Deletion during the Emergence of Yersinia pestis. Infection and Immunity, American Society for Microbiology, 2015, 83 (9), pp.3638-3647. ⟨10.1128/IAI.00482-15⟩. ⟨hal-02947674⟩

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