Two-Component Signaling System VgrRS Directly Senses Extracytoplasmic and Intracellular Iron to Control Bacterial Adaptation under Iron Depleted Stress

Wang L, Pan Y, Yuan Z, Zhang H, Peng B, Wang F

PLoS Pathog 12(12): e1006133
2016 pp: 1-28


Both iron starvation and excess are detrimental to cellular life, especially for animal and plant pathogens since they always live in iron-limited environments produced by host immune responses. However, how organisms sense and respond to iron is incompletely understood. Herein, we reveal that in the phytopathogenic bacterium Xanthomonas campestris pv. campestris, VgrS (also named ColS) is a membrane-bound receptor histidine kinase that senses extracytoplasmic iron limitation in the periplasm, while its cognate response regulator, VgrR (ColR), detects intracellular iron excess. Under iron-depleted conditions, dissociation of Fe3+ from the periplasmic sensor region of VgrS activates the VgrS autophosphorylation and subsequent phosphotransfer to VgrR, an OmpR-family transcription factor that regulates bacterial responses to take up iron. VgrR-VgrS regulon and the consensus DNA binding motif of the transcription factor VgrR were dissected by comparative proteomic and ChIP-seq analyses, which revealed that in reacting to iron-depleted environments, VgrR directly or indirectly controls the expressions of hundreds of genes that are involved in various physiological cascades, especially those associated with iron-uptake. Among them, we demonstrated that the phosphorylated VgrR tightly represses the transcription of a special TonB-dependent receptor gene, tdvA. This regulation is a critical prerequisite for efficient iron uptake and bacterial virulence since activation of tdvA transcription is detrimental to these processes. When the intracellular iron accumulates, the VgrR-Fe2+ interaction dissociates not only the binding between VgrR and the tdvA promoter, but also the interaction between VgrR and VgrS. This relieves the repression in tdvA transcription to impede continuous iron uptake and avoids possible toxic effects of excessive iron accumulation. Our results revealed a signaling system that directly senses both extracytoplasmic and intracellular iron to modulate bacterial iron homeostasis.

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