By subtractive hybridization, we isolated genes, differentially expressed in virulent strain (dev), that are expressed at higher levels in the virulent Mycobacterium tuberculosis H37Rv strain in comparison to its avirulent counterpart, H37Ra, and consequently may be associated with the virulence phenotype of M. tuberculosis. A two-component system, devR-devS, was identified by DNA sequencing of a dev clone. DevR, the predicted gene product of devR, is a response regulator (RR) in the NarL/UhpA subfamily of two-component systems. The devS gene product displayed homology with histidine protein kinases (HPKs) including UhpB, NarX and NarQ. The devR-devS locus is preceded by gene Rv3134c that encodes a putative alanine-valine- rich protein. This locus was conserved in M. tuberculosis and M. bovis BCG but not in other mycobacteria. A devR -lacZ transcription fusion demonstrated β-galactosidase activity in M. smegmatis and in M. tuberculosis. The devR and devS genes were cotranscribed and the levels of their transcripts were lower in two isolates of the avirulent H37Ra strain in comparison to the virulent H37Rv strain of M. tuberculosis. The level of DevR protein was also lower in one of the H37Ra strains in comparison to the H37Rv strain. However, in a third isolate of H37Ra, RNA and protein expression was equivalent to that in the H37Rv strain. Electron microscopic immunogold analysis of M. tuberculosis grown in laboratory medium and within human monocytes revealed specific labelling for DevR protein within the bacteria and the phagosomal lumen of infected monocytes. These findings collectively suggest a potential role for devR-devS in the regulation of genetic programmes unique to the tubercle bacillus. (C) 2000 Harcourt Publishers Ltd.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine