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J Bacteriol. 1995 August; 177(16): 4696–4702.
PMCID: PMC177235

Modulation of flagellar expression in Escherichia coli by acetyl phosphate and the osmoregulator OmpR.


During the search for unknown factors involved in motility, we have found that expression of the flagellar master operon flhDC is affected by mutations of the pta and ackA genes, encoding phosphotransacetylase and acetate kinase, respectively (S. Shin, J. Sheen, and C. Park, Korean J. Microbiol. 31:504-511, 1993). Here we describe results showing that this effect is modulated by externally added acetate, except when both pta and ackA are mutated, suggesting the role of acetyl phosphate, an intermediate of acetate metabolism, as a regulatory effector. Furthermore, the following evidence indicates that the phosphorylation of OmpR, a trans factor for osmoregulation, regulates flagellar expression. First, in a strain lacking ompR, the expression of flhDC is no longer responsive to a change in the level of acetyl phosphate. Second, an increase in medium osmolarity does not decrease flhDC expression in an ompR mutant. It is known that such an increase normally enhances OmpR phosphorylation. Third, OmpR protein binds to the DNA fragment containing the flhDC promoter, and its affinity is increased with phosphorylation by acetyl phosphate. DNase I footprinting revealed the regions of the flhDC promoter protected by OmpR in the presence or absence of phosphorylation. Therefore, we propose that the phosphorylated OmpR, generated by either osmolarity change or the internal level of acetyl phosphate, negatively regulates the expression of flagella.

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