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Expression of the gonococcal global regulatory protein Fur and genes encompassing the Fur and iron regulon during in vitro and in vivo infection in women.

Research paper by Sarika S Agarwal, Shite S Sebastian, Borys B Szmigielski, Peter A PA Rice, Caroline A CA Genco

Indexed on: 04 Mar '08Published on: 04 Mar '08Published in: Journal of bacteriology



Abstract

The ferric uptake regulatory protein, Fur, functions as a global regulatory protein of gene transcription in the mucosal pathogen Neisseria gonorrhoeae. We have shown previously that several N. gonorrhoeae Fur-repressed genes are expressed in vivo during mucosal gonococcal infection in men, which suggests that this organism infects in an iron-limited environment and that Fur is expressed under these conditions. In this study we have demonstrated expression of the gonococcal fur gene in vitro, in human cervical epithelial cells, and in specimens from female subjects with uncomplicated gonococcal infection. In vitro studies confirmed that the expression of the gonococcal fur gene was repressed during growth under iron-replete growth conditions but that a basal level of the protein was maintained. Using GFP transcriptional fusions constructed from specific Fur binding sequences within the fur promoter/operator region, we determined that this operator region was functional during N. gonorrhoeae infection of cervical epithelial cells. Furthermore, reverse transcription-PCR analysis, as well as microarray analysis, using a custom Neisseria Fur and iron regulon microarray revealed that several Fur- and iron-regulated genes were expressed during N. gonorrhoeae infection of cervical epithelial cells. Microarray analysis of specimens obtained from female subjects with uncomplicated gonococcal infection corroborated our in vitro findings and point toward a key role of gonococcal Fur- and iron-regulated genes in gonococcal disease.