Transcriptional regulation of Pseudomonas aeruginosa rhlR: role of the CRP orthologue Vfr (virulence factor regulator) and quorum-sensing regulators LasR and RhlR.Microbiology (Reading). 2011 Sep; 157(Pt 9):2545-2555.M
The production of many virulence factors by Pseudomonas aeruginosa is regulated by the quorum-sensing (QS) response. In this regulatory network LasR and RhlR, bound to their corresponding autoinducers, play a central role. The QS response has a hierarchical structure: LasR/3O-C12-HSL activates the transcription of rhlR, and RhlR/C4-HSL activates the transcription of several genes, including the rhlAB operon, which encodes the enzymes responsible for rhamnolipid synthesis. The rhlAB operon is located immediately upstream of the rhlR gene. rhlR has four transcription start sites, two of which are located in the rhlB coding region. Vfr directly activates transcription of lasR, and has been reported to be also involved in rhlR expression. The aim of this work was to characterize the details of the mechanism of rhlR transcriptional regulation. We show that Vfr directly regulates rhlR transcription through its binding to several Vfr-binding sites (VBSs) present in the rhlR promoter region, one of which has a negative effect on transcription. Two of the VBSs overlap with las boxes where LasR/3O-C12-HSL binds to activate rhlR transcription. We also show that rhlR transcription is subject to positive-feedback autoregulation through RhlR/C4-HSL activation of the rhlA promoter. This positive autoregulation plays a major role in rhlR expression.