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UNLABELLED - Helicobacter pylori must be able to rapidly respond to fluctuating conditions within the stomach. Despite this need for constant adaptation, H. pylori encodes few regulatory proteins. Of the identified regulators, the ferric uptake regulator (Fur), the nickel response regulator (NikR), and the two-component acid response system (ArsRS) are each paramount to the success of this pathogen. While numerous studies have individually examined these regulatory proteins, little is known about their combined effect. Therefore, we constructed a series of isogenic mutant strains that contained all possible single, double, and triple regulatory mutations in Fur, NikR, and ArsS. A growth curve analysis revealed minor variation in growth kinetics across the strains; these were most pronounced in the triple mutant and in strains lacking ArsS. Visual analysis showed that strains lacking ArsS formed large aggregates and a biofilm-like matrix at the air-liquid interface. Biofilm quantification using crystal violet assays and visualization via scanning electron microscopy (SEM) showed that all strains lacking ArsS or containing a nonphosphorylatable form of ArsR (ArsR-D52N mutant) formed significantly more biofilm than the wild-type strain. Molecular characterization of biofilm formation showed that strains containing mutations in the ArsRS pathway displayed increased levels of cell aggregation and adherence, both of which are key to biofilm development. Furthermore, SEM analysis revealed prevalent coccoid cells and extracellular matrix formation in the ArsR-D52N, ΔnikR ΔarsS, and Δfur ΔnikR ΔarsS mutant strains, suggesting that these strains may have an exacerbated stress response that further contributes to biofilm formation. Thus, H. pylori ArsRS has a previously unrecognized role in biofilm formation.
IMPORTANCE - Despite a paucity of regulatory proteins, adaptation is key to the survival of H. pylori within the stomach. While prior studies have focused on individual regulatory proteins, such as Fur, NikR, and ArsRS, few studies have examined the combined effect of these factors. Analysis of isogenic mutant strains that contained all possible single, double, and triple regulatory mutations in Fur, NikR, and ArsS revealed a previously unrecognized role for the acid-responsive two-component system ArsRS in biofilm formation.
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