After invading a host, bacterial pathogens secrete diverse protein toxins to disrupt host defense systems. To ensure successful infection, however, pathogens must precisely regulate the expression of those exotoxins because uncontrolled toxin production squanders energy. Furthermore, inappropriate toxin secretion can trigger host immune responses that are detrimental to the invading pathogens. Therefore, bacterial pathogens use diverse transcriptional regulators to accurately regulate multiple exotoxin genes based on spatiotemporal conditions. This review covers three major exotoxins in pathogenic Vibrio
species and their transcriptional regulation systems. When Vibrio
encounters a host, genes encoding cytolysin/hemolysin, multifunctional-autoprocessing repeats-in-toxin (MARTX) toxin, and secreted phospholipases are coordinately regulated by the transcriptional regulator HlyU. At the same time, however, they are distinctly controlled by a variety of other transcriptional regulators. How this coordinated but distinct regulation of exotoxins makes Vibrio
species successful pathogens? In addition, anti-virulence strategies that target the coordinating master regulator HlyU and related future research directions are discussed.
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