Sensing the environment allows pathogenic bacteria to coordinately regulate gene expression to maximize survival within or outside of a host. Here we show that Bordetella species regulate virulence factor expression in response to carbon dioxide levels that mimic in vivo conditions within the respiratory tract. We found strains of Bordetella bronchiseptica that did not produce adenylate cyclase toxin (ACT) when grown in liquid or solid media with ambient air aeration, but produced ACT and additional antigens when grown in air supplemented to 5% CO2. Transcriptome analysis and quantitative real time-PCR analysis revealed that strain 761, as well as strain RB50, increased transcription of genes encoding ACT, filamentous hemagglutinin (FHA), pertactin, fimbriae and the type III secretion system in 5% CO2 conditions, relative to ambient air. Furthermore, transcription of cyaA and fhaB in response to 5% CO2 was increased even in the absence of BvgS. In vitro analysis also revealed increases in cytotoxicity and adherence when strains were grown in 5% CO2. The human pathogens B. pertussis and B. parapertussis also increased transcription of several virulence factors when grown in 5% CO2, indicating that this response is conserved among the classical bordetellae. Together, our data indicate that Bordetella species can sense and respond to physiologically relevant changes in CO2 concentrations by regulating virulence factors important for colonization, persistence and evasion of the host immune response.
Hester, S. E., Lui, M., Nicholson, T., Nowacki, D., & Harvill, E. T. (2012). Identification of a CO2 Responsive Regulon in Bordetella. PLoS ONE, 7(10). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0047635