The sequence and properties of the comQ gene are described. comQ was predicted to encode a 34,209-Da protein, and the product of comQ was shown to be required for the development of genetic competence. The apparent transcriptional initiation and termination sites of comQ were mapped, and the location of a likely E sigma A promoter was inferred. The expression of comQ was maximal early in growth and declined as the cells approached the stationary phase. This expression was not dependent on any of the competence regulatory genes tested (comA, comP, sin, abrB, degU, and spo0A). Disruption of comQ in the chromosome prevented the development of competence as well as the transcription of comG, a late competence operon. This disruption also decreased the expression of srfA, a regulatory operon needed for the expression of competence. These and other results suggest a role for ComQ early in the hierarchy of competence regulatory genes, probably as a component of a signal transduction system
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