Search tips
Search criteria 


Logo of jbacterPermissionsJournals.ASM.orgJournalJB ArticleJournal InfoAuthorsReviewers
J Bacteriol. 2010 July; 192(13): 3540–3544.
Published online 2010 April 23. doi:  10.1128/JB.00175-10
PMCID: PMC2897660

Repression of recA Induction by RecX Is Independent of the RecA Protein in Deinococcus radiodurans[down-pointing small open triangle]


Besides inhibiting RecA activity at the protein level, Deinococcus radiodurans RecX can suppress RecA induction at the transcriptional level. The regulation of RecX on recA induction is independent of RecA activity, and its N terminus is involved in this process.

Deinococcus radiodurans was originally identified as a contaminant of irradiated canned meat, but researchers soon became interested in its extreme resistance to high levels of ionizing and UV radiation, oxidative damage, and desiccation (1, 12). The resistance of D. radiodurans has been shown to be due to its pronounced ability to repair DNA, especially the RecA-involved DNA repair process, because the bacterium loses its radiation resistance to a great extent after the disruption of recA (4, 12, 14). However, little is known about how RecA functions in this process in this bacterium compared to what has been described in Escherichia coli, partly due to the lack of protein homologues of RecB, -C, -E, and -T (12, 16).

RecX is a bacterial RecA regulatory protein that is widely distributed in many species from each of the major lineages of bacteria (20). In some bacteria, including E. coli, Herbaspirillum seropedicae, Mycobacterium smegmatis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Streptomyces lividans, Thiobacillus ferrooxidans, and Xanthomonas campestris, recX is located on the same coding strand downstream of recA, and the two genes are cotranscribed (5, 8, 9, 11, 18, 24-27). Overexpression of recA in recX mutants, but not recA mutants, leads to deleterious effects (5, 9, 26). Biochemical assays show that RecX inhibits RecA in both recombinase and coprotease activities, through direct interaction with RecA protein or its filaments, and that RecX acts as an antirecombinase that quells inappropriate recombination repair during normal DNA metabolism (6, 15, 19, 25).

Unlike what is seen in most bacteria, the recX homologue in D. radiodurans is located far away from recA. The RecX protein also shows a dual-negative regulation on RecA function, not only directly inhibiting RecA activity at the protein level but also inhibiting recA induction at the transcriptional level (22). The aim of the present study was to investigate the regulation activity of D. radiodurans RecX and to clarify the relationship of its dual inhibition (at both the transcriptional and protein levels) of RecA. In the present work, we analyzed recA promoter activity in a recA recX double mutant and the biochemical activity of a mutant D. radiodurans RecX protein lacking an N-terminal domain.

The bacterial strains and plasmids used in this study are listed in Table Table1.1. Disruption of recX and recA was performed using the direct insertional mutagenesis technique described by Funayama (7). Because the absence of RecX enhanced the recombination ability of D. radiodurans, the double mutant was constructed in a specific order by disrupting recX before recA. The full recX gene was amplified from genomic DNA by PCR analysis using the primers 5′-TACATATGGGCGCGTCCGGCAGC-3′ and 5′-TTGGATCCTTACTCCTCGGCTTCGT-3′. The recX fragment was digested with Aor51H1 and AvaI, and then the N terminus (43 bp) and C terminus (223 bp) were ligated to a 914-bp kanamycin (Kam)-resistant gene that had a 43-bp sequence in accordance with the N terminus of the recX gene. The ligated N-Kam-C product was then transformed into D. radiodurans R1. The mutant strain was obtained on tryptone-glucose-yeast extract (TGY) agar with 10 μg/ml Kam and was confirmed by PCR and Southern blotting. The recX mutant was continuously cultured for more than 20 generations, and the recX markerless mutant, RecX, was screened by PCR from the TGY agar without kanamycin.

Bacterial strains and plasmids used in this study

The gene recA was disrupted by inserting a Kam-resistant gene between the BanII and HinfI sites. The disrupted recA fragment was transformed either into wild-type D. radiodurans R1 for the recA mutant (named RecA here) or into the recX markerless mutant for the double mutant of recX and recA [named Rec(A+X) here].

RecX exhibited its regulation on recA transcription in the absence of RecA.

The recA-lacZ transcriptional fusion was constructed to analyze recA transcription in D. radiodurans. The recA promoter (about 203 bp) was obtained with the primers 5′-GTCTAGAGAAACACCAGCATGATCGC-3′ and 5′-GGGCCCACACTGATGATTTCTGCTA-3′, and cloned between the BglII and SpeI sites of pRADZ3 (13). The resulting plasmid, pAP1, was transformed into wild-type D. radiodurans R1, the recX mutant RecX, the recA mutant RecA, and the double mutant Rec(A+X) by a double crossover with selection for chloramphenicol (Chloromycetin) resistance (7). To avoid the differences in plasmid copy numbers, the transformation was carried out under the same conditions by electroporation, and the plasmid copy numbers in the four strains were quantified by reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) and Southern blotting.

Expression of the lacZ reporter gene under the control of the recA promoter in E. coli or D. radiodurans was detected using X-Gal (5-bromo-4-chloro-3-inodyl-β-d-galactopyranoside; 40 μg/ml). β-Galactosidase activity in D. radiodurans was measured in toluene-permeabilized cells according to the method of Meima and Lidstrom (13). In the wild type, the lacZ reporter gene, driven by the recA promoter, retained basal level expression and could be induced by irradiation. In RecX, the recA promoter enhanced its basal expression (P = 0.0023 versus recA basal expression in the wild type), and no induction was found after radiation treatment (Fig. (Fig.1A).1A). This finding was in accord with a previous report that RecX inhibited the induction of the recA promoter (22). In RecA, recA promoter transcription maintained its UV induction (P = 0.0021; n = 5), although its basal level expression increased slightly (P = 0.1057 versus recA basal expression in the wild type) (3, 21). RecX and RecA proteins exhibit different effects on the recA promoter. In the double mutant Rec(A+X), the recA promoter clearly upregulated its transcription (n = 5; P = 0.0027 versus recA basal expression in the wild type) and lost induction activity after UV irradiation. The absence of the RecA protein did not affect RecX regulation of promoter transcription. Thus, RecX appeared to regulate recA transcription independently of RecA.

FIG. 1.
Transcription activity of the recA promoter. Plasmid pAP1 bearing a recA promoter-lacZ fusion (A) or plasmid pAP1-RecX bearing a recA promoter-lacZ fusion and an added recX gene (B) was transformed into the wild-type strain and three mutants. The promoter ...

We also investigated recA transcription in strains with an additional recX gene in the recA-lacZ fusion expression plasmid (22). With compensation or overexpression of the RecX protein, all four strains exhibited their induction activities (P < 0.05; n = 5), and their β-galactosidase activities were clearly inhibited (Fig. (Fig.1B).1B). This result further indicated that the regulation of RecX on recA induction is independent of RecA activity.

Native recA transcript levels were also quantified by RT-PCR (Fig. (Fig.1C).1C). Considering that the recA gene is disrupted by a Kam-resistant gene in the recA insertion mutant RecA and the recA recX double mutant Rec(A+X), we quantified the N terminus of recA (about 100 bp) as its native transcript in all four strains. Regardless of the presence or absence of RecA, the recA promoter upregulated the transcript level and lost its induction in the RecX mutant. This result was in agreement with the promoter-lacZ fusion analysis (Fig. (Fig.1A),1A), indicating that repression of recA induction by RecX was independent of the RecA protein in Deinococcus radiodurans.

Without the N terminus, the RecX mutant protein (XL) maintained its interaction with RecA as well as its inhibition on the ATPase and DNA strand exchange activities of RecA and its inability to inhibit the transcription of the recA promoter. In addition to a conservative RecX superfamily domain in the C terminus, D. radiodurans RecX has an N-terminal domain (about 45 amino acids) that is not found in E. coli RecX. The N domain is rich in arginine, which endows RecX with a basic isoelectric point (pI) of about 9.96. Without its N terminus, the theoretical pI of RecX is about 5.89. To determine whether the N terminus of RecX was related to its transcription regulation activity, we cloned and expressed the D. radiodurans RecX protein that lacked the N terminus (named XL here) with the primers 5′-TTCATATGCCCCAAGACCCGCGAGGAGC-3′ and 5′-TTGGATCCTTACTCCTCGGCTTCGT-3′. Without the N domain, the size of the purified XL protein was about 20 kDa.

In most bacteria, including D. radiodurans, RecX can interact with RecA and inhibit RecA, in terms of its ATPase and DNA recombination ability. Here, RecA-XL interaction was determined by a His tag pulldown assay (His tag pulldown kit; Thermo Fisher Scientific) and the yeast two-hybrid assay (GAL4-based two-hybrid assay kit, Clontech, Japan). Assays were carried out according to each manufacturer's protocols. As shown in Fig. Fig.2A,2A, the XL protein could interact with the RecA protein and the absence of an N domain did not affect the binding of RecX and RecA. In addition to RecA-RecX interaction, the yeast two-hybrid assay also indicated interactions between RecX-RecX, RecX-XL, and XL-XL, suggesting that the RecX polymer formation was unrelated to its N domain.

FIG. 2.
Biochemical characterization of XL protein. (A) Protein-protein interaction assay. His tag pulldown assay (left) and yeast two-hybrid assay (right) were carried out to inspect the interaction between RecA and XL proteins. Lane 1, His-tagged XL protein ...

The effects of XL on ATP hydrolysis promoted by RecA were investigated in a 20-μl reaction mixture (pH 7.0, 30°C, containing 50 mM HEPES buffer, 1 mM MgCl2, 10 μM ATP, 0.2 μl [γ-32P]ATP [10 mCi/ml], 40 fmol single-stranded DNA [ssDNA], 30 nM RecA protein, and 0 to 35 nM RecX [or XL] protein). After the reaction, the samples were cooled on ice and the reaction was stopped by adding 2 μl of 100 mM EDTA. ATP and Pi were separated by chromatography in 1 M formic acid-0.5 M LiCl. As seen in Fig. Fig.2B,2B, RecA ATPase activity was inhibited by the addition of XL protein to the reaction mixture, and the inhibition was similar to that seen with RecX. The RecA-dependent DNA strand exchange reaction was conducted as described previously (10). For the inhibition experiment, the indicated amounts of RecX (or XL) were added just before the addition of single-stranded DNA binding protein. Samples were electrophoresed in a 0.8% agarose gel and showed that XL clearly inhibited the DNA strand exchange activity (Fig. (Fig.2B)2B) of RecA, similar to the effect of RecX. Based on these results, XL protein appeared to preserve the ability of RecX to inhibit RecA activity at the protein level, according to its sequence.

To study the effect of XL on recA transcription activity, the compensation expression of XL in the RecX mutant was studied. The XL DNA fragment was inserted into plasmid pAP1 between the sites NdeI and BamH, and the recombination plasmid pAP1-XL was used to detect the effect of XL on the recA transcription in a RecX mutant. Similarly, plasmid pAP1-RecX with a full recX gene was used as a control (Fig. (Fig.2C).2C). In RecX, the recA transcription clearly increased (lane 2), and the compensating expression of RecX protein repressed the transcription activity of recA (lane 3), but not that of XL (lane 4). XL protein lost its inhibition of the recA promoter, which suggested that the N-terminal domain of RecX might be involved in the regulation of recA expression.

Frequent recombination events initiated by RecA in stationary, growing bacteria under nonstressed conditions would be deleterious to the genomes. A tight negative regulatory control may be needed. In E. coli, LexA blocks recA expression on the transcriptional level, and RecX and DinI inhibit RecA activity on the protein level. A full understanding of the regulation of RecA in D. radiodurans remains elusive. In parallel to what has been described for E. coli, two lexA genes (dra0344 and dra0074) and a recX gene (dr1310) were found in D. radiodurans. The two D. radiodurans LexA proteins possess the conserved LexA domains and autocleavage activities promoted by RecA, but neither is involved in DNA damage-induction reactions (17, 23). D. radiodurans RecX protein exhibited the repression on the recA promoter besides its inhibition on RecA (22). So, an ideal model for the transcriptional regulation would be that the RecX protein could bind to a recA promoter and block recA transcription, similar to the function of LexA in E. coli. Gel shift assays (2) showed that purified D. radiodurans RecX could bind to ssDNA at a RecX concentration of ≥0.2 μM and to double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) at a RecX concentration of ≥0.4 μM, but not to the XL protein (Fig. (Fig.2D).2D). The DNA binding ability of D. radiodurans RecX is related to its N terminus. Furthermore, recA promoter binding protein assays indicated that the recA promoter could pull down native RecX protein from the total protein extract of D. radiodurans. However, the DNA binding ability of the purified RecX protein was not exclusive toward the recA promoter in vitro (data not shown). A sequence assay showed that no conservative LexA box or other known DNA binding mode was found in the N terminus of RecX. Thus, we propose that RecX-specific binding of the recA promoter may require the assistance of another prosthetic group or proteins (not RecA).


This work was supported by a grant from the National Basic Research Program of China (2004 CB 19604), a grant from the National Hi-Tech Development Program (2007AA021305), a key project from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (30830006), and the Application of Nuclear Techniques in Agriculture project from the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture (200803034).

We state that there are no conflicts of interest.


[down-pointing small open triangle]Published ahead of print on 23 April 2010.


1. Anderson, A. W., H. C. Norden, R. F. Cain, G. Parrish, and D. Duggan. 1956. Studies on a radio-resistant micrococcus. I. The isolation, morphology, cultural characteristics, and resistance to gamma radiation. Food Technol. 10:575-577.
2. Ausubel, F. M., R. Brent, and R. E. Kingston. 1995. Short protocols in molecular biology, 3rd ed. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, Cold Spring Harbor, NY.
3. Bonacossa de Almeida, C., G. Coste, S. Sommer, and A. Bailone. 2002. Quantification of RecA protein in Deinococcus radiodurans reveals involvement of RecA, but not LexA, in its regulation. Mol. Genet. Genomics 268:28-41. [PubMed]
4. Daly, M. J. 1994. In vivo damage and recA-dependent repair of plasmid and chromosomal DNA in the radiation-resistant bacterium Deinococcus radiodurans. J. Bacteriol. 176:3508-3517. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
5. De Mot, R., G. Schoofs, and J. Vanderleyden. 1994. A putative regulatory gene downstream of recA is conserved in gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria. Nucleic Acids Res. 22:1313-1314. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
6. Drees, J. C., S. L. Lusetti, and M. M. Cox. 2004. Inhibition of RecA protein by the Escherichia coli RecX protein: modulation by the RecA C terminus and filament functional state. J. Biol. Chem. 279:52991-52997. [PubMed]
7. Funayama, T., et al. 1999. Identification and disruption analysis of the recN gene in the extremely radioresistant bacterium Deinococcus radiodurans. Mutat. Res. 435:151-161. [PubMed]
8. Galvão, C. W., F. O. Pedrosa, E. M. Souza, M. G. Yates, L. S. Chubatsu, and M. B. Steffens. 2004. Expression, purification, and DNA-binding activity of the Herbaspirillum seropedicae RecX protein. Protein Expr. Purif. 35:298-303. [PubMed]
9. Guiliani, N., A. Bengrine, F. Borne, M. Chippaux, and V. Bonnefoy. 1997. Alanyl-tRNA synthetase gene of the extreme acidophilic chemolithoautotrophic Thiobacillus ferrooxidans is highly homologous to alaS genes from all living kingdoms but cannot be transcribed from its promoter in Escherichia coli. Microbiology 143:2179-2187. [PubMed]
10. Kim, J., and M. M. Cox. 2002. The RecA proteins of Deinococcus radiodurans and Escherichia coli promote DNA strand exchange via inverse pathways. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 99:7917-7921. [PubMed]
11. Lee, T. C., M. C. Lee, C. H. Hung, S. F. Weng, and Y. H. Tseng. 2001. Sequence, transcriptional analysis and chromosomal location of the Xanthomonas campestris pv. campestris uvrB gene. J. Mol. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 3:519-528. [PubMed]
12. Makarova, K. S., L. Aravind, Y. I. Wolf, R. L. Tatusov, K. W. Minton, E. V. Koonin, and M. J. Daly. 2001. Genome of the extremely radiation-resistant bacterium Deinococcus radiodurans viewed from the perspective of comparative genomics. Microbiol. Mol. Biol. Rev. 65:44-79. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
13. Meima, R., and M. E. Lidstrom. 2000. Characterization of minimal replicon of cryptic Deinococcus radiodurans SARK plasmid and development of versatile Escherichia coli-D. radiodurans shuttle vectors. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 66:3856-3867. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
14. Minton, K. W. 1996. Repair of ionizing-radiation damage in the radiation resistant bacterium Deinococcus radiodurans. Mutat. Res. 363:1-7. [PubMed]
15. Mishra, S., P. A. Mazumdar, J. Dey, and A. K. Das. 2003. Molecular modeling of RecX reveals its mode of interaction with RecA. Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 312:615-622. [PubMed]
16. Narumi, I. 2003. Unlocking radiation resistance mechanism: still a long way to go. Trends Microbiol. 11:422-425. [PubMed]
17. Narumi, I., K. Satoh, M. Kikuchi, T. Funayama, T. Yanagisawa, Y. Kobayashi, H. Watanabe, and K. Yamamoto. 2001. The LexA protein from Deinococcus radiodurans is not involved in RecA induction following gamma irradiation. J. Bacteriol. 183:6951-6956. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
18. Pagès, V. N., Koffel-Schwartz, and R. P. Fuchs. 2003. recX, a new SOS gene that is co-transcribed with the recA gene in Escherichia coli. DNA Repair 2:273-284. [PubMed]
19. Ragone, S., J. D. Maman, N. Furnham, and L. Pellegrini. 2008. Structural basis for inhibition of homologous recombination by the RecX protein. EMBO J. 27:2259-2269. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
20. Sano, Y. 1993. Role of the recA-related gene adjacent to the recA gene in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. J. Bacteriol. 175:2451-2454. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
21. Schlesinger, D. J. 2007. Role of RecA in DNA damage repair in Deinococcus radiodurans. FEMS Microbiol. Lett. 274:342-347. [PubMed]
22. Sheng, D., R. Liu, Z. Xu, P. Singh, B. Shen, and Y. Hua. 2005. Dual negative regulatory mechanisms of RecX on RecA functions in radiation resistance, DNA recombination and consequent genome instability in Deinococcus radiodurans. DNA Repair 4:671-678. [PubMed]
23. Sheng, D., Z. Zheng, B. Tian, B. Shen, and Y. Hua. 2004. LexA analog (dra0074) is a regulatory protein that is irrelevant to recA induction. J. Biochem. 136:787-793. [PubMed]
24. Stohl, E. A., and H. S. Seifert. 2001. The recX gene potentiates homologous recombination in Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Mol. Microbiol. 40:1301-1310. [PubMed]
25. Stohl, E. A., J. P. Brockman, K. L. Burkle, K. Morimatsu, S. C. Kowalczykowski, and H. S. Seifert. 2003. Escherichia coli RecX inhibits RecA recombinase and coprotease activities in vitro and in vivo. J. Biol. Chem. 278:2278-2285. [PubMed]
26. Vierling, S., T. Weber, W. Wohlleben, and G. Muth. 2000. Transcriptional and mutational analyses of the Streptomyces lividans recX gene and its interference with RecA activity. J. Bacteriol. 182:4005-4011. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
27. Yang, Y. C., C. H. Hsu, C. P. Chou, and M. K. Yang. 2002. Genetic organization of the lexA, recA and recX genes in Xanthomonas campestris. FEMS Microbiol. Lett. 209:149-154. [PubMed]

Articles from Journal of Bacteriology are provided here courtesy of American Society for Microbiology (ASM)