Regulation of transcription in Escherichia coli from the mer and merR promoters in the transposon Tn501

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Colleges, School and Institutes


We report studies on deletion mutants of the regulatory region of the mercuric ion resistance (mer) genes of transposon Tn501, isolated from Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Transcription of the mer genes in Escherichia coli from the promoter Pmer is regulated both positively (in the presence of mercuric salts) and negatively (in their absence) by the product of the merR gene. The merR gene is transcribed divergently with respect to the other mer genes, and negatively regulates its own synthesis. The experiments described here suggest that both positive and negative regulation by MerR, as well as its autoregulation, are largely mediated by MerR binding to a single site on DNA. This site contains a hyphenated dyad symmetrical sequence centred 24 base-pairs before the start of the mer transcript. Additional sites may be involved in full repression of the mer and merR promoters. Studies on deletions of the Pmer promoter show that the -35 sequence is not required for constitutive activity. An alternative -10 sequence may be used in the absence of the -35 and normal -10 sequences, but the properties of a point mutation indicate that, in the presence of the -35 sequence, the normal -10 sequence is required for promoter activity. A model for the regulation of expression of the mercury resistance genes by mercuric ions and the MerR protein is discussed.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)343-53
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 1989


  • Promoter Regions, Genetic, Genes, Bacterial, Chromosome Deletion, Base Sequence, DNA, Bacterial, Molecular Sequence Data, Escherichia coli, DNA Transposable Elements, Transcription, Genetic, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Mutation