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Legionella pneumophila contaminates man-made water systems and creates numerous exposure risks for Legionnaires’ Disease. Because copper/silver ionization is commonly used to control L. pneumophila, its mechanisms of metal response and detoxification are of significant interest. Here we describe an L. pneumophila operon with significant similarity to the GIG operon of Cupriavidus metallidurans. The Legionella GIG operon is present in a subset of strains and has been acquired as part of the ICE-βox 65-kB integrative conjugative element. We assessed GIG promoter activity following exposure of L. pneumophila to multiple concentrations of HAuCl4, CuSO4 and AgNO3. At 37°C, control stationary phase cultures exhibited GIG promoter activity. This activity increased significantly in response to 20 and 50uM HAuCl4 and CuSO4 but not in response to AgNO3. Conversely, at 26°C, cultures exhibited decreased promoter response to copper. GIG promoter activity was also induced by HAuCl4 or CuSO4 during early biofilm establishment at both temperatures. When an L. pneumophila GIG promoter construct was transformed into E. coli DH5α, cultures showed baseline expression levels that did not increase following metal addition. Analysis of L. pneumophila transcriptional regulatory mutants suggested that GIG up-regulation in the presence of metal ions may be influenced by the stationary phase sigma factor, RpoS.


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