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Dickeya dadantii is a pathogen infecting a wide range of plant species. Soft rot, the visible symptom, is mainly due to the production of pectate lyases (Pels) that can destroy the plant cell walls. Previously we found that the pel gene expression is modulated by H-NS and FIS, two nucleoid-associated proteins (NAPs) modulating the DNA topology. Here, we show that relaxation of the DNA in growing D. dadantii cells decreases the expression of pel genes. Deletion of fis aggravates, whereas that of hns alleviates the negative impact of DNA relaxation on pel expression. We further show that H-NS and FIS directly bind the pelE promoter and that the response of D. dadantii pel genes to stresses that induce DNA relaxation is modulated, although to different extents, by H-NS and FIS. We infer that FIS acts as a repressor buffering the negative impact of DNA relaxation on pel gene transcription, whereas H-NS fine-tunes the response of virulence genes precluding their expression under suboptimal conditions of supercoiling. This novel dependence of H-NS effect on DNA topology expands our understanding of the role of NAPs in regulating the global bacterial gene expression and bacterial pathogenicity.


Zghidi-Abouzid Ouafa, Sylvie Reverchon, Thomas Lautier, Georgi Muskhelishvili, William Nasser. The nucleoid-associated proteins H-NS and FIS modulate the DNA supercoiling response of the pel genes, the major virulence factors in the plant pathogen bacterium Dickeya dadantii. Nucleic acids research. 2012 May;40(10):4306-19

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PMID: 22275524

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