Evidence of Cross-Regulation in Two Closely Related Pyruvate-Sensing Systems in Uropathogenic Escherichia coli

Bradley D. Steiner, Allison R. Eberly, Melanie N. Hurst, Ellisa W. Zhang, Hamilton D. Green, Stefan Behr, Kirsten Jung, Maria Hadjifrangiskou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Two-component systems (TCSs) dictate many bacterial responses to environmental change via the activation of a membrane-embedded sensor kinase, which has molecular specificity for a cognate response regulator protein. However, although the majority of TCSs operate through seemingly strict cognate protein–protein interactions, there have been several reports of TCSs that violate this classical model of signal transduction. Our group has recently demonstrated that some of these cross-interacting TCSs function in a manner that imparts a fitness advantage to bacterial pathogens. In this study, we describe interconnectivity between the metabolite-sensing TCSs YpdA/YpdB and BtsS/BtsR in uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC). The YpdA/YpdB and BtsS/BtsR TCSs have been previously reported to interact in K12 E. coli, where they alter the expression of putative transporter genes yhjX and yjiY, respectively. These target genes are both upregulated in UPEC during acute and chronic murine models of urinary tract infection, as well as in response to pyruvate and serine added to growth media in vitro. Here, we show that proper regulation of yhjX in UPEC requires the presence of all components from both of these TCSs. By utilizing plasmid-encoded luciferase reporters tracking the activity of the yhjX and yjiY promoters, we demonstrate that deletions in one TCS substantially alter transcriptional activity of the opposing system’s target gene. However, unlike in K12 E. coli, single gene deletions in the YpdA/YpdB system do not alter yjiY gene expression in UPEC, suggesting that niche and lifestyle-specific pressures may be selecting for differential cross-regulation of TCSs in pathogenic and non-pathogenic E. coli.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-74
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Membrane Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • Cross-regulation
  • Escherichia coli
  • Pyruvate-sensing
  • Two-component systems


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