The marine bacterium Vibrio parahaemolyticus, a major cause of food-borne gastroenteritis, employs a type VI secretion system 1 (T6SS1), a recently discovered protein secretion system, to combat competing bacteria. Environmental signals such as temperature, salinity, cell density and surface sensing, as well as the quorum-sensing master regulator OpaR, were previously reported to regulate T6SS1 activity and expression. In this work, we set out to identify additional transcription regulators that control the tightly regulated T6SS1 activity. To this end, we determined the effect of deletions in several known virulence regulators and in two regulators encoded within the T6SS1 gene cluster on expression and secretion of the core T6SS component Hcp1 and on T6SS1-mediated anti-bacterial activity. We report that VP1391 and VP1407, transcriptional regulators encoded within the T6SS1 gene cluster, are essential for T6SS1 activity. Moreover, we found that H-NS, a bacterial histone-like nucleoid structuring protein, which mediates transcription silencing of horizontally acquired genes, serves as a repressor of T6SS1. We also show that activation of surface sensing and high salt conditions alleviate the H-NS-mediated repression. Our results shed light on the complex network of environmental signals and transcription regulators that govern the tight regulation over T6SS1 activity.
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