Two structural genes needed for catechol degradation, catA and catB, encode the respective enzymes catechol 1,2-dioxygenase (EC 126.96.36.199) and muconate cycloisomerase (EC 188.8.131.52). Catechol is an intermediate in benzoate degradation, and the catA and catB genes are clustered within a 17-kilobase-pair (kbp) region of Acinetobacter calcoaceticus chromosomal DNA containing all of the structural genes required for the conversion of benzoate to tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediates. catA and catB were transcribed in the same direction and were separated by 3.8 kbp of DNA. The 3.8-kbp sequence revealed that directly downstream from catA and potentially transcribed in the same direction were two open reading frames encoding polypeptides of 48 and 36 kilodaltons (kDa). Genetic disruption of these open reading frames did not discernably alter either catechol metabolism or its regulation. A third open reading frame, beginning 123 bp upstream from catB and transcribed divergently from this gene, was designated catM. This gene was found to encode a 28-kDa trans-acting repressor protein that, in the absence of cis,cis-muconate, prevented expression of the cat structural genes. Constitutive expression of the genes was caused by a mutation substituting Arg-156 with His-156 in the catM-encoded repressor. The repressor protein proved to be a member of a diverse family of procaryotic regulatory proteins which, with rare exception, are transcriptional activators. Repression mediated by catM was not the sole transcriptional control exercised over catA in A. calcoaceticus. Expression of catA was elicited by either benzoate or cis,cis-muconate in a genetic background from which catM had been deleted. This induction required DNA in a segment lying 1 kbp upstream from the catA gene. It is likely that an additional gene, lying outside the region containing the structural genes necessary for benzoate metabolism, contributes to this control
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