Induced expression of the heat shock protein genes uspA and grpE during starvation at low temperatures and their influence on thermal resistance of Escherichia coli O157:H7

Author: Zhang, Y.; Griffiths, M.W.

Description: Heat shock proteins play an important role in protecting bacterial cells against several stresses, including starvation. In this study, the promoters for two genes encoding heat shock proteins involved in many stress responses, UspA and GrpE, were fused with the green fluorescent protein (gfp) gene. Thus, the expression of the two genes could be quantified by measuring the fluorescence emitted by the cells under different environmental conditions. The heat resistance levels of starved and nonstarved cells during storage at 5, 10, and 37 degrees C were compared with the levels of expression of the uspA and grpE genes. D52-values (times required for decimal reductions in count at 52 degrees C) increased by 11.5, 14.6, and 18.5 min when cells were starved for 3 h at 37 degrees C, for 24 h at 10 degrees C, and for 2 days at 5 degrees C, respectively. In all cases, these increases were significant (P < 0.01), indicating that the stress imposed by starvation altered the ability of E. coli O157:H7 to survive subsequent heat treatments. Thermal tolerance was correlative with the induction of UspA and GrpE. At 5 degrees C, the change in the thermal tolerance of the pathogen was positively linked to the induced expression of the grpE gene but negatively related to the expression of the uspA gene. The results obtained in this study indicate that UspA plays an important role in starvation-induced thermal tolerance at 37 degrees C but that GrpE may be more involved in regulating this response at lower temperatures. An improvement in our understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in these cross-protection responses may make it possible to devise strategies to limit their effects.

Subject headings: Adaptation, Physiological; Bacterial Proteins/biosynthesis/genetics; Colony Count, Microbial; Escherichia coli O157/genetics/metabolism/physiology; Escherichia coli Proteins; Fluorescence; Food Microbiology; Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial; Heat-Shock Proteins/biosynthesis/genetics; Hot Temperature; Starvation; Time Factors

Publication year: 2003

Journal or book title: Journal of Food Protection

Volume: 66

Issue: 11

Pages: 2045-2050

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Type: Journal Article

Serial number: 312