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The CadC protein from the cadA cadmium resistance operon of Staphylococcus aureus plasmid pI258 regulates transcription of this system in vitro. The CadC protein was overproduced in Escherichia coli cells and partially purified. Gel shift assays of the proposed cadA operator/promoter region DNA showed specific association with the CadC protein. Control arsenic resistance operator/promoter DNA from the same plasmid was not shifted by the CadC protein. Cd2+, Bi3+, and Pb2+ caused the release of CadC from DNA in gel retardation assays. DNase I footprinting measurements showed that the CadC protein specifically associated with and protected a region of operator/promoter DNA from nucleotide positions -7 to +14 relative to the start point of mRNA synthesis. Runoff transcription assays with the operator/promoter region of DNA (plus the first 69 nucleotides of the cadC gene) and purified E. coli RNA polymerase gave an mRNA product of the predicted size. Added CadC protein inhibited transcription in vitro.