Ehrlichia chaffeensis TRP120 binds a G+C-rich motif in host cell DNA and exhibits eukaryotic transcriptional activator function

Bing Zhu, Jeeba A. Kuriakose, Tian Luo, Efren Ballesteros, Sharu Gupta, Yuriy Fofanov, Jere W. McBride

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Ehrlichia chaffeensis is an obligately intracellular bacterium that modulates host cell gene transcription in the mononuclear phagocyte, but the host gene targets and mechanisms involved in transcriptional modulation are not well-defined. In this study, we identified a novel tandem repeat DNA-binding domain in the E. chaffeensis 120-kDa tandem repeat protein (TRP120) that directly binds host cell DNA. TRP120 was observed by immunofluorescent microscopy in the nucleus of E. chaffeensis-infected host cells and was detected in nuclear extracts by Western immunoblotting with TRP120-specific antibody. The TRP120 binding sites and associated host cell target genes were identified using high-throughput deep sequencing (Illumina) of immunoprecipitated DNA (chromatin immunoprecipitation and high-throughput DNA sequencing). Multiple em motif elicitation (MEME) analysis of the most highly enriched TRP120-bound sequences revealed a G+C-rich DNA motif, and recombinant TRP120 specifically bound synthetic oligonucleotides containing the motif. TRP120 target gene binding sites were mapped most frequently to intersecting regions (intron/exon; 49%) but were also identified in upstream regulatory regions (25%) and downstream locations (26%). Genes targeted by TRP120 were most frequently associated with transcriptional regulation, signal transduction, and apoptosis. TRP120 targeted inflammatory chemokine genes, CCL2, CCL20, and CXCL11, which were strongly upregulated during E. chaffeensis infection and were also upregulated by direct transfection with recombinant TRP120. This study reveals that TRP120 is a novel DNA-binding protein that is involved in a host gene transcriptional regulation strategy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4370-4381
Number of pages12
JournalInfection and Immunity
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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