Transcription activation by the Escherichia coli cyclic AMP receptor protein: determinants within activating region 3

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Colleges, School and Institutes


At Class II CRP-dependent promoters, the Escherichia coli cyclic AMP receptor protein (CRP) activates transcription by making multiple interactions with RNA polymerase (RNAP). Two discrete surfaces of CRP, known as Activating Region 1 (AR1) and Activating Region 2 (AR2), interact with the C-terminal and N-terminal domains, respectively, of the alpha subunit of RNAP. Activating Region 3 (AR3) is a third separate surface of CRP, which is thought to interact with a target in the C-terminal region of the RNAP sigma(70) subunit. We have used a CRP mutant that functions primarily via AR3, CRP HL159 KE101 KN52, as a tool to identify residues within AR3 that are important for activation. This was achieved by screening a random mutant library of the gene encoding CRP HL159 KE101 KN52 for positive control mutants at Class II CRP-dependent promoters, and also by performing alanine scanning mutagenesis. Using both in vivo reporter assays and in vitro transcription assays, we measured the effects of key substitutions within AR3 on transcription activation in both CRP HL159 KE101 KN52 and wild-type CRP. We show that a cluster of negatively charged surface-exposed residues at positions 53, 54, 55 and 58 is required for optimal activation at a Class II, but not at a Class I, CRP-dependent promoter. We conclude that these residues in AR3 of CRP form an activatory determinant for Class II transcription activation. Abortive initiation assays were used to show that this activatory determinant accelerates the rate of isomerisation from the closed to open complex at a Class II CRP-dependent promoter. AR3 of CRP also contains an inhibitory determinant: the lysine residue at position 52 of CRP is inhibitory to maximal levels of transcription activation from Class II promoters. We show that the negative effects of K52 are not simply due to "masking" of the negatively charged residues at positions 53, 54, 55 and 58. Our results suggest that, during activation by wild-type CRP, the activatory and inhibitory determinants of AR3 balance each other. Thus, activation is predominantly determined by AR1 and AR2.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-310
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2000