malQ mutants of Escherichia coli lacking amylomaltase cannot grow on maltose. They express the maltose system constitutively and are sensitive to maltose when grown on another carbon source. In an attempt to isolate a multicopy suppressor that would result in growth on maltose, we transformed a malQ mutant with a gene bank of E. coli DNA which had been digested with Sau3a and cloned in pBR322. We screened the transformants on MacConkey maltose plates. A colony was isolated that appeared to be resistant to maltose and was pink on these plates, but it was still unable to grow on minimal medium with maltose as the carbon source. The plasmid was isolated, and the gene causing this phenotype was characterized. The deduced amino acid sequence of the encoded protein shows homology to that of lipases and esterases. We termed the gene aes, for acetyl esterase. Extracts of cells harboring plasmid-encoded aes under its own promoter exhibit a fivefold higher capacity to hydrolyze p-nitrophenyl acetate than do extracts of cells of plasmid-free strains. Similarly, strains harboring plasmid-encoded aes are able to grow on triacetyl glycerol (triacetin) whereas the plasmid-free strains are not. The expression of plasmid-encoded aes resulted in strong repression of the maltose transport genes in malT+ strains (10-fold reduction), but not in a malT(Con) strain which is independent of the inducer. Also, overproduction of MalT counteracted the Aes-dependent repression, indicating a direct interaction between MalT and Aes
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