Bacteria of the genus Yersinia are responsible for a variety of human diseases. Y. pestis causes the infamous disease Plague, which has regained prominence in public awareness due to its potential use as an agent of bioterrorism. In contrast, Y. pseudotuberculosis and Y. enterocolitica cause primarily gastrointestinal disease. However, despite the differences in disease symptoms, these three pathogenic Yersinia species are closely related, and share several common virulence determinants. Yersinia studies have provided fundamental insights into bacterial pathogenesis, including the first example of the widespread type three secretion system (T3SS). A critical component of all T3SSs is a specialized outer membrane pore-forming protein known as a secretin. However, secretin production can cause bacterial cell envelope stress. This is lethal to Y. enterocolitica unless a critical stress response known as the phage-shock-protein (Psp) system is functional. As a result, the Psp system of Y. enterocolitica is essential for its virulence. Our studies on the Psp system to date have identified its core components and begun to define their roles. We will base our future work on the hypotheses that regulation of the Y. enterocolitica Psp system is mediated by complex and dynamic protein- protein interactions, and that the activated system functions to counter problems associated with the cytoplasmic membrane, such as can be caused by a mislocalized secretin. To address these hypotheses we propose to: (1) Test various models of how the PspFABC proteins may constitute a signal transduction system that regulates psp gene expression via dynamic protein-protein interactions;(2) Analyze the regulatory and physiological functions of the PspB and PspC proteins, which play multiple essential roles in the system;(3) Directly analyze the connections between secretin toxicity, secretin mislocalization to the cytoplasmic membrane, and the function of the Psp system in Y. enterocolitica. These studies also have broad significance beyond Y. enterocolitica because secretin-containing systems critical for virulence, and the Psp system, are widespread in medically important bacteria. Therefore, by understanding the Psp system we will gain further insight into the essential ability of bacteria to respond to stressful conditions that occur during host infection.

Public Health Relevance

The bacterium Yersinia enterocolitica causes human gastroenteritis, and is closely related to the causative agent of Plague, Y. pestis. The proposed research will increase our understanding of a stress-response system in Y. enterocolitica that is essential for its ability to cause disease, and is also present in numerous other medically important bacteria. Understanding this stress-response system is vital, because in the long-term it could be a target for the design of new therapeutic strategies against Yersinia species as well as other disease- causing bacteria.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Bacterial Pathogenesis Study Section (BACP)
Program Officer
Alexander, William A
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
New York University
Schools of Medicine
New York
United States
Zip Code
Srivastava, Disha; Moumene, Amal; Flores-Kim, Josué et al. (2017) Psp Stress Response Proteins Form a Complex with Mislocalized Secretins in the Yersinia enterocolitica Cytoplasmic Membrane. MBio 8:
Flores-Kim, Josué; Darwin, Andrew J (2016) Interactions between the Cytoplasmic Domains of PspB and PspC Silence the Yersinia enterocolitica Phage Shock Protein Response. J Bacteriol 198:3367-3378
Flores-Kim, Josué; Darwin, Andrew J (2016) The Phage Shock Protein Response. Annu Rev Microbiol 70:83-101
Rau, Reina; Darwin, Andrew J (2015) Identification of YsaP, the Pilotin of the Yersinia enterocolitica Ysa Type III Secretion System. J Bacteriol 197:2770-9
Flores-Kim, Josué; Darwin, Andrew J (2015) Activity of a bacterial cell envelope stress response is controlled by the interaction of a protein binding domain with different partners. J Biol Chem 290:11417-30
Flores-Kim, Josué; Darwin, Andrew J (2014) Regulation of bacterial virulence gene expression by cell envelope stress responses. Virulence 5:835-51
Yamaguchi, Saori; Reid, Dylan A; Rothenberg, Eli et al. (2013) Changes in Psp protein binding partners, localization and behaviour upon activation of the Yersinia enterocolitica phage shock protein response. Mol Microbiol 87:656-71
Darwin, Andrew J (2013) Stress relief during host infection: The phage shock protein response supports bacterial virulence in various ways. PLoS Pathog 9:e1003388
Flores-Kim, Josue; Darwin, Andrew J (2012) Phage shock protein C (PspC) of Yersinia enterocolitica is a polytopic membrane protein with implications for regulation of the Psp stress response. J Bacteriol 194:6548-59
Flores-Kim, Josue; Darwin, Andrew J (2012) Links between type III secretion and extracytoplasmic stress responses in Yersinia. Front Cell Infect Microbiol 2:125

Showing the most recent 10 out of 25 publications