Genetic characterization of a multicomponent signal transduction system controlling the expression of cable pili in Burkholderia cenocepacia

Mladen Tomich, Christian D Mohr

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12 Scopus citations


Cable pili are peritrichous organelles expressed by certain strains of Burkholderia cenocepacia, believed to facilitate colonization of the lower respiratory tract in cystic fibrosis patients. The B. cenocepacia cblBACDS operon encodes the structural and accessory proteins required for the assembly of cable pili, as well as a gene designated cblS, predicted to encode a hybrid sensor kinase protein of bacterial two-component signal transduction systems. In this study we report the identification of two additional genes, designated cblT and cblR, predicted to encode a second hybrid sensor kinase and a response regulator, respectively. Analyses of the deduced amino acid sequences of the cblS and cblT gene products revealed that both putative sensor kinases have transmitter and receiver domains and that the cblT gene product has an additional C-terminal HPt domain. Mutagenesis of the cblS, cblT, or cblR gene led to a block in expression of CblA, the major pilin subunit, and a severe decrease in cblA transcript abundance. Using transcriptional fusion analyses, the decrease in the abundance of the cblA transcript in the cblS, cblT, and cblR mutants was shown to be due to a block in transcription from the cblB-proximal promoter, located upstream of the cblBACDS operon. Furthermore, ectopic expression of either cblS or cblR in wild-type B. cenocepacia strain BC7 led to a significant increase, while ectopic expression of cblT resulted in a dramatic decrease, in abundance of the CblA major pilin and the cblA transcript. Our results demonstrate that the B. cenocepacia cblS, cblT, and cblR genes are essential for cable pilus expression and that their effect is exerted at the level of transcription of the cblBACDS operon. These findings are consistent with the proposed function of the cblSTR gene products as a multicomponent signal transduction pathway controlling the expression of cable pilus biosynthetic genes in B. cenocepacia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3826-3836
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 2004


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