When a ribosome translates mRNA sequences, the ribosome often stalls at certain codons because it is hard to translate. Consecutive proline codons are such examples that induce ribosome stalling and elongation factor P (EF-P) is required for the stalled ribosome to continue translation at those consecutive proline codons. We found that EF-P is required for translation of the mgtB gene encoding a Mg2+ transporter in the mgtCBR virulence operon from the intracellular pathogen Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium. Salmonella lacking EF-P decreases MgtB protein levels in a manner dependent on consecutive proline codons located in the mgtB coding region despite increasing transcription of the mgtCBR operon via the mgtP open reading frame in the leader RNA, resulting in an altered ratio between MgtC and MgtB proteins within the operon. Substitution of the consecutive proline codons to alanine codons eliminates EF-P-mediated control of the mgtB gene during infection and thus contributes to Salmonella's survival inside macrophages where Salmonella experiences low levels of EF-P. This suggests that this pathogen utilizes a strategy to coordinate expression of virulence genes by an evolutionarily conserved translation factor.
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