Development of a tetracycline-inducible gene expression system for the study of Helicobacter pylori pathogenesis

Aleksandra Debowski, Phebe Verbrugghe, M. Sehnal, Barry Marshall, Mohammed Benghezal

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    Deletion mutants and animal models have been instrumental in the study of Helicobacter pylori pathogenesis. Conditional mutants, however, would enable the study of the temporal gene requirement during H. pylori colonization and chronic infection. To achieve this goal, we adapted the Escherichia coli Tn10-derived tetracycline-inducible expression system for use in H. pylori. The ureA promoter was modified by inserting one or two tet operators to generate tetracycline-responsive promoters, named uPtetO, and these promoters were then fused to the reporter gfpmut2 and inserted into different loci. The expression of the tetracycline repressor (tetR) was placed under the control of one of three promoters and inserted into the chromosome. Conditional expression of green fluorescent protein (GFP) in strains harboring tetR and uPtetO-GFP was characterized by measuring GFP activity and by immunoblotting. The two tet-responsive uPtetO promoters differ in strength, and induction of these promoters was inducer concentration and time dependent, with maximum expression achieved after induction for 8 to 16 h. Furthermore, the chromosomal location of the uPtetO-GFP construct and the nature of the promoter driving expression of tetR influenced the strength of the uPtetO promoters upon induction. Integration of uPtetO-GFP and tetR constructs at different genomic loci was stable in vivo and did not affect colonization. Finally, we demonstrate tetracycline-dependent induction of GFP expression in vivo during chronic infection. These results open new experimental avenues for dissecting H. pylori pathogenesis using animal models and for testing the roles of specific genes in colonization of, adaptation to, and persistence in the host. © 2013, American Society for Microbiology.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)7351-7359
    JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
    Issue number23
    Early online date20 Sep 2013
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013

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