Chapter 29 : The Tao of Urease

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This chapter describes the role of bacterial urease in infection, the structure of urease, and the genetic organization and regulation of urease genes. When urease is produced by uropathogens in an infected urinary tract, the hydrolysis of urea increases the ammonia concentration in the urine, and there is a subsequent elevation of the urine pH. The exact mechanism responsible for the increased level of survival of the pathogen and the damage associated with urease can only be inferred. Increased bacterial colonization of the urinary tract might result from the generation of an easily assimilated nitrogen source and/or from alkalinization of the urine to a more favorable pH for growth. Urease is produced in abundance by , a gram-negative curved or spiral bacterium that lives in the mucous layer overlaying the gastric epithelium. -infected gastric mucosa is characterized by a predominant neutrophil accumulation, and ammonia is thought to enhance a neutrophil-dependent cytocidal activity. The species urease gene cluster appears to code for more accessory polypeptides than are found in and species urease gene clusters. Expression of the plasmid-encoded urease genes appears to be regulated by a transcriptional activator termed UreR. Analysis of the chromosomal locus indicates that it contains only seven of the urease genes, , , , , , , and . Therefore, in contrast to the inducible gene clusters, no additional gene products are required for the constitutive expression of urease in .

Citation: Collins C. 1994. The Tao of Urease, p 437-449. In Miller V, Kaper J, Portnoy D, Isberg R (ed), Molecular Genetics of Bacterial Pathogenesis. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818340.ch29

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Urinary Tract Infections
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Figure 1

Role of urease in the formation of struvite stones. Adapted from Griffith and Osborne ( ). Reprinted with permission of S. Karger AG, Basel.

Citation: Collins C. 1994. The Tao of Urease, p 437-449. In Miller V, Kaper J, Portnoy D, Isberg R (ed), Molecular Genetics of Bacterial Pathogenesis. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818340.ch29
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Figure 2

Maps of various bacterial urease gene clusters. Shown are the relative sizes and orientations of the chromosomal urease genes ( ), and urease genes ( ), the plasmid-encoded and urease genes ( ), urease genes ( ), and sp. strain TB-90 urease genes ( ). Open boxes indicate the positions of each gene (). The oval represents Nac, the nitrogen assimilation control protein ( ). The arrow points to the Nac-binding site, located approximately 90 nucleotides upstream of in ( ).

Citation: Collins C. 1994. The Tao of Urease, p 437-449. In Miller V, Kaper J, Portnoy D, Isberg R (ed), Molecular Genetics of Bacterial Pathogenesis. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818340.ch29
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Figure 3

Similarity between the amino acid sequences of UreA (structural subunit) and UreD (accessory polypeptide) from various bacterial species. A dendrogram representation of the clustering relationships between the amino acid sequences is shown. The horizontal branch lengths are proportional to the similarities between the sequences. A pairwise alignment of the sequences was performed by the algorithm of Needleman and Wunsch ( ) by using a re-scaled version of the scoring matrix of Dayhoff et al. ( ), as found in the Genetics Computer Group Sequence Analysis Software package, version 7.0.2 ( ). The similarity scores obtained were used to create a clustering order by the unweighted pair-group method by using arithmetic averages ( ). For the first 101 amino acids of UreA were analyzed UreH is thought to be equivalent to UreD of the other clusters.

Citation: Collins C. 1994. The Tao of Urease, p 437-449. In Miller V, Kaper J, Portnoy D, Isberg R (ed), Molecular Genetics of Bacterial Pathogenesis. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818340.ch29
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Table 1

Urease gene transcriptional activators

Citation: Collins C. 1994. The Tao of Urease, p 437-449. In Miller V, Kaper J, Portnoy D, Isberg R (ed), Molecular Genetics of Bacterial Pathogenesis. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818340.ch29

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