SenX3-independent contribution of regX3 to Mycobacterium tuberculosis virulence

Dalin Rifat, Deborah A. Belchis, Petros C. Karakousis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background: Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) must adapt to various stress conditions during host infection. The two-component regulatory system (2CRS) SenX3-RegX3 is required for Mtb virulence. We showed recently that the senX3-regX3 intergenic region contains promoter activity, driving senX3-independent regX3 expression. In the current study, we tested the hypothesis that RegX3 has a SenX3-independent role in Mtb virulence. The gene expression patterns, growth, and survival of mutants containing transposon insertions in senX3 (senX3::Tn) and regX3 (regX3::Tn) were compared to those of their respective complemented strains and the isogenic wild-type parent strain during axenic growth in nutrient-rich broth, phosphate depletion, nutrient starvation, and in the lungs of BALB/c mice. Results: regX3 expression was reduced in senX3::Tn during phosphate depletion and nutrient starvation, and expression of the phosphate-specific transport gene pstC2 was reduced similarly in senX3::Tn and regX3::Tn during phosphate depletion. Although senX3 and regX3 were each dispensable for Mtb growth in nutrient-rich broth, disruption of senX3 or regX3 caused a similar growth defect during phosphate depletion. Interestingly, senX3::Tn, in which monocistronic regX3 expression is preserved, showed significantly higher survival relative to regX3::Tn after 7 days of nutrient starvation (p <0.01), and in mouse lungs at Day 31 (p < 0.01), Day 62 (p < 0.01), and Day 124 (p = 0.05) after aerosol infection. Conclusion: Our data demonstrate the specificity of the senX3-regX3 2CRS for sensing and responding to low ambient phosphate, but also raise the possibility that RegX3 may function independently of its cognate sensor histidine kinase.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number265
JournalBMC microbiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014


  • Cross-regulation
  • Mouse
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • Nutrient
  • Persistence
  • Phosphate
  • Specificity
  • Starvation
  • Stringent response
  • Virulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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