TitleEffects of changes in membrane sodium flux on virulence gene expression in Vibrio cholerae.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1999
AuthorsHäse, CC, Mekalanos, JJ
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Date Published1999 Mar 16

The expression of several virulence factors of Vibrio cholerae is coordinately regulated by the ToxT molecule and the membrane proteins TcpP/H and ToxR/S, which are required for toxT transcription. To identify proteins that negatively affect toxT transcription, we screened transposon mutants of V. cholerae carrying a chromosomally integrated toxT::lacZ reporter construct for darker blue colonies on media containing 5-bromo-4-chlor-3-indolyl beta-D galactoside (X-gal). Two mutants had transposon insertions in a region homologous to the nqr gene cluster of Vibrio alginolyticus, encoding a sodium-translocating NADH-ubiquinone oxidoreductase (NQR). In V. alginolyticus, NQR is a respiration-linked Na+ extrusion pump generating a sodium motive force that can be used for solute import, ATP synthesis, and flagella rotation. Inhibition of NQR enzyme function in V. cholerae by the specific inhibitor 2-n-heptyl-4-hydroxyquinoline N-oxide (HQNO) resulted in elevated toxT::lacZ activity. Increased toxT::lacZ expression in an nqr mutant strain compared with the parental strain was observed when the TcpP/H molecules alone were strongly expressed, suggesting that the negative effect of the NQR complex on toxT transcription is mediated through TcpP/H. However, the ability of the TcpP/H proteins to activate the toxT::lacZ reporter construct was greatly diminished in the presence of high NaCl concentrations in the growth medium. The flagellar motor of V. cholerae appears to be driven by a sodium motive force, and modulation of flagella rotation by inhibitory drugs, high media viscosity, or specific mutations resulted in increases of toxT::lacZ expression. Thus, the regulation of the main virulence factors of V. cholerae appears to be modulated by endogenous and exogenous sodium levels in a complex way.