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Role of Escherichia coli Nitrogen Regulatory Genes in the Nitrogen Response of the Azotobacter vinelandii NifL-NifA Complex

By Francisca Reyes-Ramirez, Richard Little and Ray Dixon


The redox-sensing flavoprotein NifL inhibits the activity of the nitrogen fixation (nif)-specific transcriptional activator NifA in Azotobacter vinelandii in response to molecular oxygen and fixed nitrogen. Although the mechanism whereby the A. vinelandii NifL-NifA system responds to fixed nitrogen in vivo is unknown, the glnK gene, which encodes a PII-like signal transduction protein, has been implicated in nitrogen control. However, the precise function of A. vinelandii glnK in this response is difficult to establish because of the essential nature of this gene. We have shown previously that A. vinelandii NifL is able to respond to fixed nitrogen to control NifA activity when expressed in Escherichia coli. In this study, we investigated the role of the E. coli PII-like signal transduction proteins in nitrogen control of the A. vinelandii NifL-NifA regulatory system in vivo. In contrast to recent findings with Klebsiella pneumoniae NifL, our results indicate that neither the E. coli PII nor GlnK protein is required to relieve inhibition by A. vinelandii NifL under nitrogen-limiting conditions. Moreover, disruption of both the E. coli glnB and ntrC genes resulted in a complete loss of nitrogen regulation of NifA activity by NifL. We observe that glnB ntrC and glnB glnK ntrC mutant strains accumulate high levels of intracellular 2-oxoglutarate under conditions of nitrogen excess. These findings are in accord with our recent in vitro observations (R. Little, F. Reyes-Ramirez, Y. Zhang, W. Van Heeswijk, and R. Dixon, EMBO J. 19:6041–6050, 2000) and suggest a model in which nitrogen control of the A. vinelandii NifL-NifA system is achieved through the response to the level of 2-oxoglutarate and an interaction with PII-like proteins under conditions of nitrogen excess

Topics: Genetics and Molecular Biology
Publisher: American Society for Microbiology
Year: 2001
DOI identifier: 10.1128/JB.183.10.3076-3082.2001
OAI identifier: oai:pubmedcentral.nih.gov:95207
Provided by: PubMed Central
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