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Copyright © 2019 American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved. Species within the genus Burkholderia exhibit remarkable phenotypic diversity. Genomic plasticity, including genome reduction and horizontal gene transfer, has been correlated with virulence traits in several species. However, the conservation of virulence genes in species otherwise considered to have limited potential for infection suggests that phenotypic diversity may not be explained solely on the basis of genetic diversity. Instead, differential organization and control of gene regulatory networks may underlie many phenotypic differences. In this review, we evaluate how regulation of gene expression by members of the multiple antibiotic resistance regulator (MarR) family of transcription factors may contribute to shaping the physiological diversity of Burkholderia species, with a focus on the clinically relevant human pathogens. All Burkholderia species encode a relatively large number of MarR proteins, a feature common to bacteria that must respond to environmental changes such as those associated with host invasion. However, evolution of gene regulatory networks has likely resulted in orthologous transcription factors controlling disparate sets of genes. Adaptation to, and survival in, diverse habitats, including a human or plant host, is key to the success of Burkholderia species as (opportunistic) pathogens, and recent reports suggest that control of virulence-associated genes by MarR proteins features prominently among the survival strategies employed by these species. We suggest that identification of MarR regulons will contribute significantly to clarification of virulence determinants and phenotypic diversity.

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Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews