Structural Basis for Virulence Activation of Francisella tularensis
Date of Original Version
The bacterium Francisella tularensis (Ft) is one of the most infectious agents known. Ft virulence is controlled by a unique combination of transcription regulators: the MglA-SspA heterodimer, PigR, and the stress signal, ppGpp. MglA-SspA assembles with the σ70-associated RNAP holoenzyme (RNAPσ70), forming a virulence-specialized polymerase. These factors activate Francisella pathogenicity island (FPI) gene expression, which is required for virulence, but the mechanism is unknown. Here we report FtRNAPσ70-promoter-DNA, FtRNAPσ70-(MglA-SspA)-promoter DNA, and FtRNAPσ70-(MglA-SspA)-ppGpp-PigR-promoter DNA cryo-EM structures. Structural and genetic analyses show MglA-SspA facilitates σ70 binding to DNA to regulate virulence and virulence-enhancing genes. Our Escherichia coli RNAPσ70-homodimeric EcSspA structure suggests this is a general SspA-transcription regulation mechanism. Strikingly, our FtRNAPσ70-(MglA-SspA)-ppGpp-PigR-DNA structure reveals ppGpp binding to MglA-SspA tethers PigR to promoters. PigR in turn recruits FtRNAP αCTDs to DNA UP elements. Thus, these studies unveil a unique mechanism for Ft pathogenesis involving a virulence-specialized RNAP that employs two (MglA-SspA)-based strategies to activate virulence genes.
Publication Title, e.g., Journal
Travis, Brady A., Kathryn M. Ramsey, Samantha M. Prezioso, Thomas Tallo, Jamie M. Wandzilak, Allen Hsu, Mario Borgnia, Alberto Bartesaghi, Simon L. Dove, Richard G. Brennan, and Maria A. Schumacher. "Structural Basis for Virulence Activation of Francisella tularensis." Molecular Cell 81, 1 (2021): 139-152.e10. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2020.10.035.
Kathryn M. Ramsey is affiliated with the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology and the Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences.