The stb locus of IncFII plasmid NR1, which mediates stable inheritance of the plasmid, is composed of an essential cis-acting DNA site located upstream from two tandem genes that encode essential stability proteins. The two tandem genes, stbA and stbB, are transcribed as an operon from promoter PAB. Using PAB-lacZ gene fusions, it was found that the stb operon is autoregulated. A low-copy-number stb+ plasmid introduced into the same cell with the PAB-lacZ fusion plasmid repressed beta-galactosidase activity about 5-fold, whereas a high-copy-number stb+ plasmid repressed beta-galactosidase about 15-fold. The details of autoregulation were analyzed by varying the concentrations of StbA and StbB to examine their effects on expression from the PAB-lacZ fusion plasmid. StbB protein by itself had autorepressor activity. Although StbA protein by itself had no detectable repressor activity, plasmids that encoded both stbA and stbB repressed more effectively than did those that encoded stbB alone. Plasmids with a mutation in stbA had reduced repressor activity. One mutation in stbB that inactivated the stability function also reduced, but did not eliminate, repressor activity. Repressor activity of the mutant StbB protein was effectively enhanced by stbA. These results indicate that StbB serves two functions, one for stable inheritance and one for autoregulation of the stb operon, both of which may be influenced by StbA protein
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