Independent regulation of the divergent nrfA and acsP1 Escherichia coli promoters by a nucleo-protein assembly at a shared regulatory region

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Expression from the Escherichia coli nrfA promoter (pnrfA) is activated by both the FNR protein (an anaerobically triggered transcription activator) and the NarL or NarP proteins (transcription activators triggered by nitrite and nitrate). Under anaerobic conditions, FNR binds to a site centred at position -41.5 at pnrfA and activates transcription. Further activation, induced by the presence of nitrite, results from the binding of NarL and NarP to a site centred at position -74.5. A second promoter (pacsP1), which directs transcription into the adjacent gene encoding acetyl coenzyme A synthetase (acs), is overlapping and divergent to pnrfA. Despite extensive overlap of regulatory elements, pnrfA and pacsP1 are regulated independently. We demonstrate that at least two nucleoid-associated factors bind to the nrfA-acs intergenic region, The Fis protein binds to a site centred at position -15 (in relation to pnrfA transcription), whereas the IHF protein binds to a site centred at position -54. Both Fis and IHF repress in vivo expression from pacsP1, but have smaller repressive effects on expression from pnrfA. Gel retardation assays were used to investigate the pairwise binding of FNR, NarL, Fis and IHF proteins to the nrfA-acs intergenic region. The binding of NarL and IHF is mutually exclusive, whereas all other combinations can bind simultaneously. Experiments in which deletions and point mutations were introduced into the upstream region of pnrfA demonstrated that an additional factor must bind upstream to inhibit FNR-dependent transcription. We conclude that the nrfA-acs intergenic region is folded into an ordered nucleoprotein structure that permits the two divergent promoters to be regulated independently in response to different physiological signals.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)687-702
Number of pages16
JournalMolecular Microbiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2002