Transcriptional and Posttranscriptional Control of Cable Pilus Gene Expression in Burkholderia cenocepacia

Mladen Tomich, Christian D Mohr

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18 Scopus citations


Burkholderia cenocepacia is an important member of the Burkholderia cepacia complex, a group of closely related bacteria that inhabits a wide variety of environmental niches in nature and that also colonizes the lungs of compromised humans. Certain strains of B. cenocepacia express peritrichous adherence organelles known as cable pili, thought to be important in the colonization of the lower respiratory tract. The genetic locus required for cable pilus biogenesis is comprised of at least five genes, designated cblB, cblA, cblC, cblD, and cblS. In this study a transcriptional analysis of cbl gene expression was undertaken. The principal promoter, located upstream of the cbl locus, was identified and characterized. By using lacZ transcriptional fusions, the effects of multiple environmental cues on cbl gene expression were examined. High osmolarity, temperature of 37°C, acidic pH, and low iron bioavailability were found to induce cbl gene expression. Northern hybridization analysis of the cbl locus identified a single, stable transcript corresponding to cblA, encoding the major pilin subunit. Transcriptional fusion studies combined with reverse transcription-PCR analysis indicated that the stable cblA transcript is the product of an mRNA processing event. This event may ensure high levels of expression of the major pilin, relative to other components of the assembly pathway. Our findings lend further insight into the control of cable pilus biogenesis in B. cenocepacia and provide evidence for regulation of cbl gene expression on both the transcriptional and posttranscriptional levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1009-1020
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 2004


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