Requirement of GrgA for Chlamydia infectious progeny production, optimal growth, and efficient plasmid maintenance

Bin Lu, Yuxuan Wang, Wurihan Wurihan, Andrew Cheng, Sydney Yeung, Joseph D. Fondell, Zhao Lai, Danny Wan, Xiang Wu, Wei Vivian Li, Huizhou Fan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Chlamydia, an obligate intracellular bacterial pathogen, has a unique developmental cycle involving the differentiation of invading elementary bodies (EBs) to noninfectious reticulate bodies (RBs), replication of RBs, and redifferentiation of RBs into progeny EBs. Progression of this cycle is regulated by three sigma factors, which direct the RNA polymerase to their respective target gene promoters. We hypothesized that the Chlamydia-specific transcriptional regulator GrgA, previously shown to activate σ66 and σ28, plays an essential role in chlamydial development and growth. To test this hypothesis, we applied a novel genetic tool known as dependence on plasmid-mediated expression to create Chlamydia trachomatis with conditional GrgA deficiency. We show that GrgA-deficient C. trachomatis RBs have a growth rate that is approximately half of the normal rate and fail to transition into progeny EBs. In addition, GrgA-deficient C. trachomatis fails to maintain its virulence plasmid. Results of RNA-Seq analysis indicate that GrgA promotes RB growth by optimizing tRNA synthesis and expression of nutrient-acquisition genes, while it enables RB-to-EB conversion by facilitating the expression of a histone and outer membrane proteins required for EB morphogenesis. GrgA also regulates numerous other late genes required for host cell exit and subsequent EB invasion into host cells. Importantly, GrgA stimulates the expression of σ54, the third and last sigma factor, and its activator, AtoC, and thereby indirectly upregulating the expression of σ54-dependent genes. In conclusion, our work demonstrates that GrgA is a master transcriptional regulator in Chlamydia and plays multiple essential roles in chlamydial pathogenicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024


  • Chlamydia
  • GrgA
  • regulation of gene expression
  • transcription factors
  • transcriptional regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology
  • Microbiology


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