Stx1 prophage excision in Escherichia coli strain PA20 confers strong curli and biofilm formation by restoring native mlrA

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Prophage insertions in Escherichia coli O157:H7 mlrA contribute to the low expression of curli fimbriae and biofilm observed in many clinical isolates. Varying levels of CsgD-dependent curli/biofilm expression are restored to strains bearing prophage insertions in mlrA by mutation of regulatory genes affecting csgD. Our previous study identified strong biofilm- and curli-producing variants in O157:H7 cultures that had lost the mlrA-imbedded prophage characteristic of the parent population, suggesting prophage excision as a mechanism for restoring biofilm properties. In this study, we compared genomic, transcriptomic and phenotypic properties of parent strain PA20 (stx1, stx2) and its prophage-cured variant, 20R2R (stx2), and confirmed the mechanism underlying the differences in biofilm formation.

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