Characterization of the pleiotropic phenotype of an ompR strain of Xenorhabdus nematophila
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Xenorhabdus nematophila is an insect pathogen that forms a symbiotic association with the nematode, Steinernema carpocapsae. Xenorhabdus is carried into the insect host by the nematode, is released into the hemolymph and participates in killing the insect. The bacteria grow to high concentrations supporting the development of the nematode in the hemolymph. OmpR is a global regulatory protein involved in the regulation of porin genes, motility, acid tolerance and virulence in several enteric bacteria. To study the role of ompR in the lifecyle of Xenorhabdus, an ompR -minus strain was constructed. The ompR strain produced markedly reduced levels of the porin protein, OpnP and was both hypermotile and exhibited a hyperhemolysis phenotype. Inactivation of flhDC, the master regulator for flagella synthesis, eliminated hemolysin production in the ompR strain, suggesting that ompR regulates hemolysin production via flhDC. The ompR mutant strain was virulent towards insect hosts. However, when nematodes were grown on a mixture of the wild-type and the ompR strain, only the wild-type strain was recovered indicating that ompR is required for competitive symbiotic interaction with the nematode. The role of ompR in the symbiosis between the bacterium and the nematode is under investigation.
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