Bacterial pathogens regulate the expression of virulence factors in response to environmental signals. In the case of salmonellae, many virulence factors are regulated via PhoP/PhoQ, a two-component signal transduction system that is repressed by magnesium and calcium in vitro. PhoP/PhoQ-activated genes promote intracellular survival within macrophages, whereas PhoP-repressed genes promote entrance into epithelial cells and macrophages by macropinocytosis and stimulate epithelial cell cytokine production. PhoP-activated genes include those that alter the cell envelope through structural alterations of lipopolysaccharide and lipid A, the bioactive component of lipopolysaccharide. PhoP-activated changes in the bacterial envelope likely promote intracellular survival by increasing resistance to host cationic antimicrobial peptides and decreasing host cell cytokine production.
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