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Open Access Research article

Isolation and characterization of Ehrlichia chaffeensis RNA polymerase and its use in evaluating p28 outer membrane protein gene promoters

Bonto Faburay, Huitao Liu, Lalitha Peddireddi and Roman R Ganta*

Author Affiliations

Department of Diagnostic Medicine/Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506, USA

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BMC Microbiology 2011, 11:83  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-11-83

Published: 22 April 2011

Abstract

Background

Ehrlichia chaffeensis is a tick-transmitted rickettsial pathogen responsible for an important emerging disease, human monocytic ehrlichiosis. To date how E. chaffeensis and many related tick-borne rickettsial pathogens adapt and persist in vertebrate and tick hosts remain largely unknown. In recent studies, we demonstrated significant host-specific differences in protein expression in E. chaffeensis originating from its tick and vertebrate host cells. The adaptive response of the pathogen to different host environments entails switch of gene expression regulated at the level of transcription, possibly by altering RNA polymerase activity.

Results

In an effort to understand the molecular basis of pathogen gene expression differences, we isolated native E. chaffeensis RNA polymerase using a heparin-agarose purification method and developed an in vitro transcription system to map promoter regions of two differentially expressed genes of the p28 outer membrane protein locus, p28-Omp14 and p28-Omp19. We also prepared a recombinant protein of E. chaffeensis σ70 homologue and used it for in vitro promoter analysis studies. The possible role of one or more proteins presents in E. chaffeensis lysates in binding to the promoter segments and on the modulation of in vitro transcription was also assessed.

Conclusions

Our experiments demonstrated that both the native and recombinant proteins are functional and have similar enzyme properties in driving the transcription from E. chaffeensis promoters. This is the first report of the functional characterization of E. chaffeensis RNA polymerase and in vitro mapping of the pathogen promoters using the enzyme. This study marks the beginning to broadly characterize the mechanisms controlling the transcription by Anaplasmataceae pathogens.