, Volume 67, Issue 5, pp 572-579

Functional Analysis of the EspR Binding Sites Upstream of espR in Mycobacterium tuberculosis

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Abstract

The ESX-1 secretion system exports substrate proteins into host cells and is crucial for the pathogenesis of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. EspR is one of the characterized transcriptional regulators that modulates the ESX-1 system by binding the conserved EspR binding sites in the promoter of espA, the encoding gene of EspA, which is also a substrate protein of the ESX-1 system and is required for the ESX-1 activity. EspR is autoregulatory and conserved EspR binding sites are present upstream of espR. In this study, we showed that these EspR sites had varying affinities for EspR, with site B being the strongest one. Point mutations of the DNA sequence at site B abolished binding of EspR to oligonucleotides containing site B alone or with other sites, further suggesting that site B is a major binding site for EspR. Complementation studies showed that constructs containing espR, and the upstream intergenic region fully restored espR expression in a ΔespR mutant strain. Although recombinant strains with mutations at more than one EspR site showed minimal differences in espR expression, reduced expression of other EspR target genes was observed, suggesting that slight changes in EspR levels can have downstream regulatory effects. These findings contribute to our understanding of the regulation of the ESX-1 system.