Temperature- and host-dependent transcriptional responses in the entomopathogenic bacterium, Yersinia entomophaga MH96 : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Genetics at Massey University, Albany Campus, New Zealand

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Massey University
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Yersinia entomophaga MH96 is a virulent pathogenic bacterium that is infective towards a broad range of insects and is under development as a biopesticide. MH96 produces insecticidal toxin complex called Yen-TC that is secreted at temperatures of 25 °C and below and has been shown to be the primary virulence factor (VF) during per os challenge against the New Zealand grass grub, Costelytra giveni and other agricultural pests (Hurst et al., 2011a, 2019). New insights into the pathobiology of MH96 during insect infection were gained from the in vivo transcriptome, including identification of a core secreted weaponry of co-expressed/co-secreted VFs, including Yen-TC and other exoenzymes; however, many other diverse types of VFs, including toxins, effectors, fimbriae, secretion systems, efflux pumps, iron acquisition, stress response and metabolic adaptation were also identified as highly expressed under in vivo conditions. A small DNA-binding protein, Yen6, was shown to be under thermoregulation at the transcriptional level and host-dependent-regulation at the post-transcriptional level and contributed to virulence during intrahemocoelic infection of Galleria mellonella at 37 °C. The in vivo transcriptome of Δyen6 and in vitro DNA-binding specificity analysis provided evidence that Yen6 is a novel LytTR-containing regulator that activates a ribose uptake/metabolism gene cluster, rbsD-xylG-rbsC-xylF-rbsK-ccpA, and represses a fructose uptake/metabolism gene cluster, IIA-fruK-IIB and a gene for RNA-binding protein yhbY during infection at 37 °C. Another small DNA-binding protein, Yen7, was also implicated as a potential temperature-dependent activator of Yen-TC component genes and over-expression of yen7 resulted in restored secretion by MH96 at 37 °C; however, deletion of yen7 did not abrogate Yen-TC production. Experimental investigations into potential regulatory linkages between Yen6 and yen7 were undertaken, and evidence to date does not support Yen6 as transcriptional repressor of yen7. A 17.5 Kb unstable element within the genome of MH96 with linkages to Yen-TC and toxin secretion, motility and cell shape was identified. Overall the findings presented in this thesis represent the most detailed investigation of MH96 pathogenesis to date, reinforcing MH96 as one of the most highly entomopathogenic bacteria known to humankind; yet suggesting MH96 has possibly maintained at least one core thermoregulatory mechanism more typical of an opportunistic pathogen.
Yersinia, Bacterial genetics, Pathogenic bacteria, Insects, Pathogens