Repression of the Escherichia coli melR promoter by MelR: evidence that efficient repression requires the formation of a repression loop

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Colleges, School and Institutes


The Escherichia coli MelR protein is a transcription activator that, in the presence of melibiose, activates expression of the melAB operon by binding to four sites located just upstream of the melAB promoter. MelR is encoded by the melR gene, which is expressed from a divergent transcript that starts 237 bp upstream of the melAB promoter transcript start point. In a recent study, we have identified a fifth DNA site for MelR that overlaps the melR promoter transcript start and -10 region. Here we show that MelR binding to this site can downregulate expression from the melR promoter; thus, MelR autoregulates its own expression. Optimal repression of the melR promoter is observed in the absence of melibiose and requires one of the four other DNA sites for MelR at the melAB promoter. The two MelR binding sites required for this optimal repression are separated by 177 bp. We suggest that, in the absence of melibiose, MelR forms a loop between these two sites. We argue that, in the presence of melibiose, this loop is broken as the melAB promoter is activated. However, in the presence of melibiose, the melR promoter can still be partially repressed by MelR binding to the site that overlaps the transcript start and -10 region. Parallels with the Escherichia coli araC-araBAD regulatory region are discussed.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-9
Number of pages7
JournalMolecular Microbiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2000