The Pseudomonas aeruginosa type III secretion system (T3SS) is a primary virulence factor important for phagocytic avoidance, disruption of host cell signaling, and host cell cytotoxicity. ExsA is the master regulator of T3SS transcription. The expression, synthesis, and activity of ExsA is tightly regulated by both intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Intrinsic regulation consists of the wellcharacterized ExsECDA partner-switching cascade, while extrinsic factors include global regulators that alter exsA transcription and/or translation. To identify novel extrinsic regulators of ExsA, we conducted a transposon mutagenesis screen in the absence of intrinsic control. Transposon disruptions within gene PA2840, which encodes a homolog of the Escherichia coli RNA-helicase DeaD, significantly reduced T3SS gene expression. Recent studies indicate that E. coli DeaD can promote translation by relieving inhibitory secondary structures within target mRNAs. We report here that PA2840, renamed DeaD, stimulates ExsA synthesis at the posttranscriptional level. Genetic experiments demonstrate that the activity of an exsA translational fusion is reduced in a deaD mutant. In addition, exsA expression in trans fails to restore T3SS gene expression in a deaD mutant. We hypothesized that DeaD relaxes mRNA secondary structure to promote exsA translation and found that altering the mRNA sequence of exsA or the native exsA Shine-Dalgarno sequence relieved the requirement for DeaD in vivo. Finally, we show that purified DeaD promotes ExsA synthesis using in vitro translation assays. Together, these data reveal a novel regulatory mechanism for P. aeruginosa DeaD and add to the complexity of global regulation of T3SS.
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© 2015, American Society for Microbiology.