Multicellular and aggregative behaviour of Salmonella typhimurium strains is controlled by mutations in the agfD promoter

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Abstract

Summary

A colony morphology type is described in which cells of Salmonella typhimurium form a rigid multicellular network with expression of thin aggregative fimbriae that mediate tight intercellular bonds. Surface translocation of cells on plates and adherence to glass and polystyrene surfaces in biofilm assays are further characteristics of the morphotype. This morphotype (rdar) is normally expressed only at low temperature. However, in two unrelated S. typhimurium strains, spontaneous mutants were found forming rdar colonies independent of temperature. Allelic replacement proved a single point mutation in the promoter region of PagfD in each of the two mutants to be responsible for the constitutive phenotype of a multicellular behaviour. Transcription levels of the two divergently transcribed agf operons required for biogenesis of thin aggregative fimbriae by Northern blot analysis with gene probes for agfA and agfD as well as expression levels of AgfA by Western blotting were compared in the wild type, the constitutive mutants and their respective ompR− and rpoS− derivatives. In the wild type the rdar morphotype and expression of thin aggregative fimbriae are restricted to low temperature on plates containing rich medium of low osmolarity, but biogenesis of thin aggregative fimbriae occurs upon iron starvation at 37°C. In the upregulated mutants biogenesis of thin aggregative fimbriae is only abolished at high osmolarity at 37°C and in the exponential phase in broth culture. Control of expression of thin aggregative fimbriae and rdar morphology takes place at the transcriptional level at the agfD promoter. A functional ompR allele is required, however an rpoS mutation abolishes transcription only in the wild type, but has no influence on expression of thin aggregative fimbriae in the constitutive mutants.

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