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Interactive regulation of Azorhizobium nifA transcription via overlapping promoters.

By A I Loroch, B G Nguyen and R A Ludwig


The Azorhizobium nifA promoter (PnifA) is positively regulated by two physiological signal transduction pathways, NtrBC, which signals anabolic N status, and FixLJK, which signals prevailing O2 status. Yet, PnifA response (gene product per unit time) to these two activating signals together is more than twice that of the summed, individual signals. In the absence of NIFA, a negative PnifA autoregulator, the fully induced PnifA response is more than 10-fold greater than that of summed, individual signals. Given this synergism, these two signal transduction pathways must interactively regulate PnifA activity. PnifA carries three cis-acting elements, an anaerobox, which presumably binds FIXK, a NIFAbox, which presumably binds NIFA itself, and a sigma 54 box, which presumably binds sigma 54 initiator, a subunit of RNA polymerase. For combinatorial analysis, single, double, and triple promoter mutations were constructed in these cis-acting elements, and PnifA activities were measured in six different trans-acting background, i.e., fixK, fixJ, nifA, ntrC, rpoF, and wild type. Under all physiological conditions studied, high-level PnifA activity required both FIXK in trans and the anaerobox element in cis. Surprisingly, because PnifA was hyperactive with a mutated sigma 54box, this cis-acting element mediates both negative and positive control. Because PnifA hyperactivity also required a wild-type upstream NIFAbox element, even in the absence of NIFA, a second upstream nifA transcription start superimposed on the NIFAbox element was hypothesized. When nifA mRNA 5' start points were mapped by primer extension, both a minor upstream transcript(s) starting 45 bp distal to the anaerobox and a major downstream transcript starting 10 bp distal to the sigma 54 box were observed. In Azorhizobium, RNA polymerase sigma 54 initiator subunits are encoded by a multigene family, which includes rpoF and rpoN genes. Because rpoF mutants show an Ntr+ phenotype, whereas rpoN mutants are Ntr-, multiple sigma 54 initiators are functionally distinct. Two independent rpoF mutants both show a tight Nif- phenotype. Moreover, rpoF product sigma 54F is absolutely required for high-level PnifA activity. In summary, the Azorhizobium nifA gene carries overlapping housekeeping-type and sigma 54-type promoters which interactively respond to different signals. Effectively, the upstream, housekeeping-type promoter responds to FIXK and positively regulates the downstream, sigma 54-type promoter. The downstream, sigma 54-type promoter responds to NTRC and negatively regulates the upstream, housekeeping-type promoter. In terms of transcript yield, the upstream, housekeeping-type promoter is therefore weak, and the downstream, sigma 54-type promoter is strong

Topics: Research Article
Year: 1995
DOI identifier: 10.1128/jb.177.24.7210-7221.1995
OAI identifier:
Provided by: PubMed Central
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