A dual-signal regulatory circuit activates transcription of a set of divergent operons in Salmonella typhimurium

Guang Zhao, Natasha Weatherspoon, Wei Kong, Roy Curtiss, Yixin Shi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


We present a molecular mechanism for signal transduction that activates transcription of the SlyA regulon in Salmonella typhimurium. We demonstrate that SlyA mediates transcriptional activation in response to guanosine tetraphosphate, ppGpp, according to the following observations: (i) in vivo transcription of SlyA-dependent genes is repressed when ppGpp is absent; this transcription can be restored by overproducing SlyA; (ii) in vivo dimerization and binding of SlyA to the target promoter are facilitated in the presence of ppGpp; and (iii) in vitro SlyA binding to the target promoter is enhanced when ppGpp is supplemented. Thus, ppGpp must be the cytoplasmic component that stimulates SlyA regulatory function by interacting directly with this regulator in Salmonella. This signaling domain, integrated by the PhoP/PhoQ 2-component system that activates slyA transcription by sensing Mg2+, forms feedforward loops that regulate chromosomal loci identified through a motif search over the S. typhimurium genome. Many such loci are divergent operons, each formed by 2 neighboring genes in which transcription of these 2 loci proceeds in opposite directions. Both genes, however, are controlled by PhoP and SlyA through a single shared PhoP box and SlyA box present in their intergenic regions. A substitution in either box sequence causes a simultaneous cessation of transcription of a divergent operon, pagD-pagC, equivalent to the phenotype in a phoP or slyA mutant. We also identified several chromosomal loci that possess pagC-type genes without the cognate pagD-type genes. Therefore, our results provide a molecular basis for the understanding of SlyA-dependent phenotypes associated with Salmonella virulence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20924-20929
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number52
StatePublished - Dec 30 2008


  • Divergent operon
  • Feedforward loop
  • PhoP/PhoQ system
  • SlyA
  • ppGpp

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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