Regulation and Functionality of a Holin/Endolysin Pair Involved in Killing of Galleria mellonella and Caenorhabditis elegans by Yersinia enterocolitica

The insecticidal toxin complex (Tc) proteins are produced by several insect-associated bacteria, including Yersinia enterocolitica strain W22703, which oscillates between two distinct pathogenicity phases in invertebrates and humans. The mechanism by which this high-molecular-weight toxin is released into the extracellular surrounding, however, has not been deciphered. In this study, we investigated the regulation and functionality of a phage-related holin/endolysin (HE) cassette located within the insecticidal pathogenicity island Tc-PAIYe of W22703. Using the Galleria mellonella infection model and luciferase reporter fusions, we revealed that quorum sensing contributes to the insecticidal activity of W22703 upon influencing the transcription of tcaR2, which encodes an activator of the tc and HE genes. In contrast, a lack of the Yersinia modulator, YmoA, stimulated HE gene transcription, and mutant W22703 ΔymoA exhibited a stronger toxicity toward insect larvae than did W22703. A luciferase reporter fusion demonstrated transcriptional activation of the HE cassette in vivo, and a significantly larger extracellular amount of subunit TcaA was found in W22703 ΔymoA relative to its ΔHE mutant. Using competitive growth assays, we demonstrated that at least in vitro, the TcaA release upon HE activity is not mediated by cell lysis of a significant part of the population. Oral infection of Caenorhabditis elegans with a HE deletion mutant attenuated the nematocidal activity of the wild type, similar to the case with a mutant lacking a Tc subunit. We conclude that the dual holin/endolysin cassette of yersiniae is a novel example of a phage-related function adapted for the release of a bacterial toxin. IMPORTANCE Members of the genus Yersinia cause gastroenteritis in humans but also exhibit toxicity toward invertebrates. A virulence factor required for this environmental life cycle stage is the multisubunit toxin complex (Tc), which is distinct from the insecticidal toxin of Bacillus thuringiensis and has the potential to be used in pest control. The mechanism by which this high-molecular-weight Tc is secreted from bacterial cells has not been uncovered. Here, we show that a highly conserved phage-related holin/endolysin pair, which is encoded by the genes holY and elyY located between the Tc subunit genes, is essential for the insecticidal activity of Y. enterocolitica and that its activation increases the amount of Tc subunits in the supernatant. Thus, the dual holY-elyY cassette of Y. enterocolitica constitutes a new example for a type 10 secretion system to release bacterial toxins.



Citation style:
Could not load citation form.

Access Statistic

Last 12 Month:


Use and reproduction:
All rights reserved