Three orphan histidine kinases inhibit Clostridioides difficile sporulation (6 tweets)

The ability of the anaerobic gastrointestinal pathogen, Clostridioides difficile, to survive outside the host relies on the formation of dormant endospores. Spore formation is contingent on the activation of a conserved transcription factor, Spo0A, by phosphorylation. Multiple kinases and phosphatases regulate Spo0A activity in other spore-forming organisms; however, these factors are not well conserved in C. difficile. Previously, we discovered that deletion of a conserved phosphotransfer protein, CD1492, increases sporulation, indicating that CD1492 inhibits C. difficile spore formation. In this study, we investigate the functions of additional conserved orphan phosphotransfer proteins, CD2492, CD1579, and CD1949 which are hypothesized to regulate Spo0A phosphorylation. Disruption of the conserved phosphotransfer protein, CD2492, also increased sporulation frequency, similarly to the CD1492 mutant, and in contrast to a previous study. A CD1492 CD2492 mutant phenocopied the sporulation and gene expression patterns of the single mutants, suggesting that these proteins function in the same genetic pathway to repress sporulation. Deletion of the conserved CD1579 phosphotransfer protein also variably increased sporulation frequency; however, knockdown of CD1949 expression did not influence sporulation. We provide evidence that CD1492, CD2492 and CD1579 function as phosphatases, as mutation of the conserved histidine residue for phosphate transfer abolished CD2492 function, and expression of the CD1492 or CD2492 histidine site-directed mutants or the wild-type CD1579 allele in a parent strain resulted in a dominant negative hypersporulation phenotype. Altogether, at least three phosphotransfer proteins, CD1492, CD2492 and CD1579 (herein, PtpA, PtpB and PtpC) repress C. difficile sporulation initiation by regulating activity of Spo0A.

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