The Rob protein, isolated on the basis of its ability to bind to the right arm of the Escherichia coli origin of chromosomal replication, is about 50% identical in amino acid sequence to SoxS and MarA, the direct regulators of the superoxide (soxRS) and multiple antibiotic resistance (mar) regulons, respectively. Having previously demonstrated that SoxS (as a MalE-SoxS fusion protein) and MarA are essentially identical in their abilities to activate in vitro transcription of genes of the sox-mar regulons, we investigated the properties of Rob as a transcriptional activator. We found that Rob (i) activates the transcription of zwf,fpr,fumC, micF, nfo, and sodA, (ii) requires a 21-bp soxbox-marbox-robbox sequence to activate zwf transcription, (iii) protects the soxbox/marbox/robbox from attack by DNase 1, (iv) is ambidextrous, i.e., requires the C-terminal domain of the alpha subunit of RNA polymerase for activation of zwf but not fumC or micF, (v) bends zwf and fumC DNA, and (vi) binds zwf and fumC DNA as a monomer. Since these transcription activation properties of Rob are virtually identical to those of MalE-SoxS and MarA, it appears as if the E. coli genome encodes three genes with the same functional capacity. However, in contrast to SoxS and MarA, whose syntheses are induced by specific environmental stimuli and elicit a clear defense response, Rob is expressed constitutively and its normal function is unknown.
Expression of the marA or soxS genes is induced by exposure of Escherichia coli to salicylate or superoxides, respectively. This, in turn, enhances the expression of a common set of promoters (the mar/soxRS regulons), resulting in both multiple antibiotic and superoxide resistance. Since MarA protein is highly homologous to SoxS, and since a MalE-SoxS fusion protein has recently been shown to activate soxRS regulon transcription, the ability of MarA to activate transcription of these genes was tested. MarA was overexpressed as a histidine-tagged fusion protein, purified, cleaved with thrombin (leaving one N-terminal histidine residue), and renatured. Like MalE-SoxS, MarA (i) activated the transcription of zwf, fpr, fumC, micF, nfo, and sodA; (ii) required a 21-bp "soxbox" sequence to activate zwf transcription; and (iii) was "ambidextrous," i.e., required the C-terminal domain of the alpha subunit of RNA polymerase for activation of zwf but not fumC or micF. Thus, the mar and soxRS systems use activators with very similar specificities and mechanisms of action to respond to different environmental signals.
The AraC family transcription factor MarA activates ∼40 genes (the marA/soxS/rob regulon) of the Escherichia coli chromosome resulting in different levels of resistance to a wide array of antibiotics and to superoxides. Activation of marA/soxS/rob regulon promoters occurs in a well-defined order with respect to the level of MarA; however, the order of activation does not parallel the strength of MarA binding to promoter sequences. To understand this lack of correspondence, we developed a computational model of transcriptional activation in which a transcription factor either increases or decreases RNA polymerase binding, and either accelerates or retards post-binding events associated with transcription initiation. We used the model to analyze data characterizing MarA regulation of promoter activity. The model clearly explains the lack of correspondence between the order of activation and the MarA-DNA affinity and indicates that the order of activation can only be predicted using information about the strength of the full MarA-polymerase-DNA interaction. The analysis further suggests that MarA can activate without increasing polymerase binding and that activation can even involve a decrease in polymerase binding, which is opposite to the textbook model of activation by recruitment. These findings are consistent with published chromatin immunoprecipitation assays of interactions between polymerase and the E. coli chromosome. We find that activation involving decreased polymerase binding yields lower latency in gene regulation and therefore might confer a competitive advantage to cells. Our model yields insights into requirements for predicting the order of activation of a regulon and enables us to suggest that activation might involve a decrease in polymerase binding which we expect to be an important theme of gene regulation in E. coli and beyond.
When environmental conditions change, cell survival can depend on sudden production of proteins that are normally in low demand. Protein production is controlled by transcription factors which bind to DNA near genes and either increase or decrease RNA production. Many puzzles remain concerning the ways transcription factors do this. Recently we collected data relating the intracellular level of a single transcription factor, MarA, to the increase in expression of several genes related to antibiotic and superoxide resistance in Escherichia coli. These data indicated that target genes are turned on in a well-defined order with respect to the level of MarA, enabling cells to mount a response that is commensurate to the level of threat detected in the environment. Here we develop a computational model to yield insight into how MarA turns on its target genes. The modeling suggests that MarA can increase the frequency with which a transcript is made while decreasing the overall presence of the transcription machinery at the start of a gene. This mechanism is opposite to the textbook model of transcriptional activation; nevertheless it enables cells to respond quickly to environmental challenges and is likely of general importance for gene regulation in E. coli and beyond.
Transcriptional activation of the promoters of the mar/soxRS regulons by the sequence-related but independently inducible MarA and SoxS proteins renders Escherichia coli resistant to a broad spectrum of antibiotics and superoxide generators. Here, the effects of MarA and SoxS on transcription of the marRAB promoter itself were assayed in vitro by using a minimal transcription system and in vivo by assaying beta-galactosidase synthesized from marR::lacZ fusions. Purified MarA and MalE-SoxS proteins stimulated mar transcription about 6- and 15-fold, respectively, when the RNA polymerase/DNA ratio was 1. Purified MarA bound as a monomer to a 16-bp "marbox" located 69 to 54 nucleotides upstream of a putative RNA initiation site. Deletion of the marbox reduced MarA-mar binding 100-fold, abolished the stimulatory effects of MarA and SoxS on transcription in vitro, and reduced marR::lacZ synthesis about 4-fold in vivo. Deletion of upstream DNA adjoining the marbox reduced MarA binding efficiency 30-fold and transcriptional activation 2- to 3-fold, providing evidence for an accessory marbox. Although MarA and the mar operon repressor, MarR, bound to independent sites, they competed for promoter DNA in band shift experiments. Assays of marR::lacZ transcriptional fusions in marRAB deletion or soxRS deletion strains showed that the superoxide generator paraquat stimulates mar transcription via soxRS and that salicylate stimulates mar transcription both by antagonizing MarR and by a MarR-independent mechanism. Thus, transcription of the marRAB operon is autorepressed by MarR and autoactivated by MarA at a site that also can be activated by SoxS.
Rob is a member of the Sox/Mar subfamily of AraC/XylS-type transcriptional regulators implicated in bacterial multidrug, heavy metal, superoxide, and organic solvent resistance phenotypes. We demonstrate that, in Salmonella enterica, Rob overexpression upregulates the transcription of mgtA, which codes for the MgtA Mg2+ transporter. mgtA was previously characterized as a member of the Mg2+-modulated PhoPQ regulon. Here we demonstrate that Rob (but not its paralog protein SoxS or MarA) is able to induce mgtA transcription in a PhoP-independent fashion by binding to a conserved Mar/Sox/Rob motif localized downstream of the PhoP-box and overlapping the PhoP-dependent transcriptional start site. We found that Rob-induced mgtA expression confers low-level cyclohexane resistance on Salmonella. Because mgtA intactness is required for Rob-induced cyclohexane resistance, provided the AcrAB multidrug efflux pump can be expressed, we postulate that MgtA is involved in the AcrAB-mediated cyclohexane detoxification mechanism promoted by Rob in Salmonella.
Escherichia coli K-12 strains are normally tolerant to n-hexane and susceptible to cyclohexane. Constitutive expression of marA of the multiple antibiotic resistance (mar) locus or of the soxS or robA gene product produced tolerance to cyclohexane. Inactivation of the mar locus or the robA locus, but not the soxRS locus, increased organic solvent susceptibility in the wild type and Mar mutants (to both n-hexane and cyclohexane). The organic solvent hypersusceptibility is a newly described phenotype for a robA-inactivated strain. Multicopy expression of mar, soxS, or robA induced cyclohexane tolerance in strains with a deleted or inactivated chromosomal mar, soxRS, or robA locus; thus, each transcriptional activator acts independently of the others. However, in a strain with 39 kb of chromosomal DNA, including the mar locus, deleted, only the multicopy complete mar locus, consisting of its two operons, produced cyclohexane tolerance. Deletion of acrAB from either wild-type E. coli K-12 or a Mar mutant resulted in loss of tolerance to both n-hexane and cyclohexane. Organic solvent tolerance mediated by mar, soxS, or robA was not restored in strains with acrAB deleted. These findings strongly suggest that active efflux specified by the acrAB locus is linked to intrinsic organic solvent tolerance and to tolerance mediated by the marA, soxS, or robA gene product in E. coli.
In Escherichia coli, Rob activates transcription of the SoxRS/MarA/Rob regulon. Previous work revealed that Rob resides in 3–4 immunostainable foci, that dipyridyl and bile salts are inducers of its activity, and that inducers bind to Rob’s C-terminal domain (CTD). We propose that sequestration inactivates Rob by blocking its access to the transcriptional machinery and that inducers activate Rob by mediating its dispersal, allowing interaction with RNA polymerase. To test “sequestration-dispersal” as a new mechanism for regulating the activity of transcriptional activators, we fused Rob’s CTD to SoxS and used indirect immunofluorescence microscopy to determine the effect of inducers on SoxS-Rob’s cellular localization. Unlike native SoxS, which is uniformly distributed throughout the cell, SoxS-Rob is sequestered without inducer, but is rapidly dispersed when cells are treated with inducer. In this manner, Rob’s CTD serves as an anti-sigma factor in regulating the co-sigma factor-like activity of SoxS when fused to it. Rob’s CTD also protects its N-terminus from Lon protease, since Lon’s normally rapid degradation of SoxS is blocked in the chimera. Accordingly, Rob’s CTD has novel regulatory properties that can be bestowed on another E. coli protein.
gene regulation; intracellular localization; immunofluorescence microscopy; anti-sigma factor; proteolysis
OmpW is a minor porin whose biological function has not been clearly defined. Evidence obtained in our laboratory indicates that in Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium the expression of OmpW is activated by SoxS upon exposure to paraquat and it is required for resistance. SoxS belongs to the AraC family of transcriptional regulators, like MarA and Rob. Due to their high structural similarity, the genes under their control have been grouped in the mar/sox/rob regulon, which presents a DNA-binding consensus sequence denominated the marsox box. In this work, we evaluated the role of the transcription factors MarA, SoxS and Rob of S. enterica serovar Typhimurium in regulating ompW expression in response to menadione. We determined the transcript and protein levels of OmpW in different genetic backgrounds; in the wild-type and Δrob strains ompW was upregulated in response to menadione, while in the ΔmarA and ΔsoxS strains the induction was abolished. In a double marA soxS mutant, ompW transcript levels were lowered after exposure to menadione, and only complementation in trans with both genes restored the positive regulation. Using transcriptional fusions and electrophoretic mobility shift assays with mutant versions of the promoter region we demonstrated that two of the predicted sites were functional. Additionally, we demonstrated that MarA increases the affinity of SoxS for the ompW promoter region. In conclusion, our study shows that ompW is upregulated in response to menadione in a cooperative manner by MarA and SoxS through a direct interaction with the promoter region.
Cationic antimicrobial peptides (CAMPs), a component of the mammalian immune system, protect the host from bacterial infections. The roles of the Escherichia coli transcriptional regulators MarA, SoxS and Rob in susceptibility to these peptides were examined. Overexpression of marA, either in an antibiotic-resistant marR mutant or from a plasmid, decreased bacterial susceptibility to CAMPs. Overexpression of the soxS gene from a plasmid, which decreased susceptibility to antibiotics, unexpectedly caused no decrease in CAMP susceptibility; instead it produced increased susceptibility to different CAMPs. Deletion or overexpression of rob had little effect on CAMP susceptibility. The marRAB operon was upregulated when E. coli was incubated in sublethal amounts of CAMPs polymyxin B, LL-37 or human β-defensin-1; however, this upregulation required Rob. Deletion of acrAB increased bacterial susceptibility to polymyxin B, LL-37 and human β-defensin-1 peptides. Deletion of tolC yielded an even greater increase in susceptibility to these peptides and also led to increased susceptibility to human α-defensin-2. Inhibition of cellular proton-motive force increased peptide susceptibility for wild-type and acrAB deletion strains; however, it decreased susceptibility of tolC mutants. These findings demonstrate that CAMPs are both inducers of marA-mediated drug resistance through interaction with Rob and also substrates for efflux in E. coli. The three related transcriptional regulators show different effects on bacterial cell susceptibility to CAMPs.
Three paralogous transcriptional activators MarA, SoxS, and Rob, activate >40 Escherichia coli promoters. To understand why MarA does not activate certain promoters as strongly as SoxS, we compared MarA, MarA mutants, and SoxS for their abilities to activate 16 promoters and to bind their cognate marbox binding sites. Replacement of the MarA glutamic acid residue 89 with alanine greatly increased the marbox binding and activation of many class I promoters. Like cells constitutive for SoxS, cells expressing the MarA with the E89A mutation were more resistant to superoxides than those harboring WT MarA. The activities of several other E89 substitutions ranked as follows: E89A > E89G > E89V > WT > E89D. Increased binding and activation occurred only at class I promoters when the 12th base of the promoter's marbox (a position at which there is no known interaction between the marbox and MarA) was not a T residue. Furthermore, WT MarA binding to a synthetic marbox in vitro was enhanced when the phosphate group between positions 12 and 13 was eliminated on one strand. The results demonstrate that relatively minor changes in a single amino acid side chain (e.g., alanine to valine or glutamic acid to aspartic acid) can strongly influence activity despite any evidence that the side chain is involved in positive interactions with either DNA or RNA polymerase. We present a model which attributes the differences in binding and activation to the interference between the β- and γ-carbons of the amino acid at position 89 and the phosphate group between positions 12 and 13.
Efflux pumps function to rid bacteria of xenobiotics, including antibiotics, bile salts, and organic solvents. TolC, which forms an outer membrane channel, is an essential component of several efflux pumps in Escherichia coli. We asked whether TolC has a role during growth in the absence of xenobiotics. Because tolC transcription is activated by three paralogous activators, MarA, SoxS, and Rob, we examined the regulation of these activators in tolC mutants. Using transcriptional fusions, we detected significant upregulation of marRAB and soxS transcription and Rob protein activity in tolC mutants. Three mechanisms could be distinguished: (i) activation of marRAB transcription was independent of marRAB, soxR, and rob functions; (ii) activation of soxS transcription required SoxR, a sensor of oxidants; and (iii) Rob protein was activated posttranscriptionally. This mechanism is similar to the mechanisms of upregulation of marRAB, soxS, and Rob by treatment with certain phenolics, superoxides, and bile salts, respectively. The transcription of other marA/soxS/rob regulon promoters, including tolC itself, was also elevated in tolC mutants. We propose that TolC is involved in the efflux of certain cellular metabolites, not only xenobiotics. As these metabolites accumulate during growth, they trigger the upregulation of MarA, SoxS, and Rob, which in turn upregulate tolC and help rid the bacteria of these metabolites, thereby restoring homeostasis.
Bacteria possess multiple mechanisms to survive exposure to various chemical stresses and antimicrobial compounds. In the enteric bacterium Escherichia coli, three homologous transcription factors—MarA, SoxS, and Rob—play a central role in coordinating this response. Three separate systems are known to regulate the expression and activities of MarA, SoxS, and Rob. However, a number of studies have shown that the three do not function in isolation but rather are coregulated through transcriptional cross talk. In this work, we systematically investigated the extent of transcriptional cross talk in the mar-sox-rob regulon. While the three transcription factors were found to have the potential to regulate each other's expression when ectopically expressed, the only significant interactions observed under physiological conditions were between mar and rob systems. MarA, SoxS, and Rob all activate the marRAB promoter, more so when they are induced by their respective inducers: salicylate, paraquat, and decanoate. None of the three proteins affects the soxS promoter, though unexpectedly, it was mildly repressed by decanoate by an unknown mechanism. SoxS is the only one of the three proteins to repress the rob promoter. Surprisingly, salicylate somewhat activates transcription of rob, while decanoate represses it a bit. Rob, in turn, activates not only its downstream promoters in response to salicylate but also the marRAB promoter. These results demonstrate that the mar and rob systems function together in response to salicylate.
The Escherichia coli tolC encodes a major outer membrane protein with multiple functions in export (e. g., diverse xenobiotics, hemolysin) and as an attachment site for phage and colicins. tolC is regulated in part by MarA, SoxS and Rob, three paralogous transcriptional activators which bind a sequence called the marbox and which activate multiple antibiotic and superoxide resistance functions. Two previously identified tolC promoters, p1 and p2, are not regulated by MarA, SoxS or Rob but p2 is activated by EvgAS and PhoPQ which also regulate other functions. Using transcriptional fusions and primer extension assays, we show here that tolC has two additional strong overlapping promoters, p3 and p4, which are downstream of p1, p2 and the marbox and are activated by MarA, SoxS and Rob. p3 and p4 are configured so that a single marbox suffices to activate transcription from both promoters. At the p3 promoter, the marbox is separated by 20 bp from the −10 hexamer for RNA polymerase but at the p4 promoter, the same marbox is separated by 30 bp from the −10 hexamer. The multiple tolC promoters may allow the cell to respond to diverse environments by coordinating tolC transcription with other appropriate functions.
gene regulation; outer membrane protein; transcriptional start sites; efflux pumps; antibiotic resistance
Bacterial transcription activators regulate transcription by making essential protein–protein interactions with RNA polymerase, for example, with region 4 of the σ70 subunit (σ70 R4). Rob, SoxS, and MarA comprise a closely related subset of members of the AraC/XylS family of transcription factors that activate transcription of both class I and class II promoters. Recently, we showed that interactions between SoxS and σ70 R4 occlude the binding of σ70 R4 to the −35 promoter element of class II promoters. Although Rob shares many similarities with SoxS, it contains a C-terminal domain (CTD) that the other paralogs do not. Thus, a goal of this study was to determine whether Rob makes protein–protein interactions with σ70 R4 at class II promoters and, if so, whether the interactions occlude the binding of σ70 R4 to the −35 hexamer despite the presence of the CTD. We found that although Rob makes fewer interactions with σ70 R4 than SoxS, the two proteins make the same, unusual, position-dependent interactions. Importantly, we found that Rob occludes σ70 R4 from binding the −35 hexamer, just as does SoxS. Thus, the CTD does not substantially alter the way Rob interacts with σ70 R4 at class II promoters. Moreover, in contrast to inferences drawn from the co-crystal structure of Rob bound to robbox DNA, which showed that only one of Rob’s dual helix–turn–helix (HTH) DNA binding motifs binds a recognition element of the promoter’s robbox, we determined that the two HTH motifs each bind a recognition element in vivo.
SoxS; genetic epistasis; σ70 R4; prerecruitment; Rob−micF crystal structure
Transcription of the multiple antibiotic resistance marRAB operon increases when one of the sequence-related activators, MarA, SoxS, or Rob, binds to the "marbox" centered at -61.5 relative to the transcriptional start site. Previous deletion analyses showed that an adjacent upstream "accessory region" was needed to augment the marbox-dependent activation. To analyze the roles of the marbox and accessory regions on mar transcription, thirteen promoters, each with a different 5-bp transversion of the -96 to -32 sequence, were synthesized, fused to lacZ, and assayed for beta-galactosidase production in single-copy lysogens with appropriate genotypes. The accessory region is shown here to be a binding site for Fis centered at -81 and to bind Fis, a small DNA-binding and -bending protein, with a Kd of approximately 5 nM. The binding of MarA to the marbox and that of Fis to its site were independent of each other. MarA, SoxS, and Rob each activated the mar promoter 1.5-to 2-fold when it had a wild-type marbox but Fis was absent. In the presence of MarA, SoxS, or Rob, Fis further enhanced the activity of the promoter twofold provided the promoter was also capable of binding Fis. However, in the absence of MarA, SoxS, or Rob or in the absence of a wild-type marbox, Fis nonspecifically lowered the activity of the mar promoter about 25% whether or not a wild-type Fis site was present. Thus, Fis acts as an accessory transcriptional activator at the mar promoter.
The paralogous transcriptional activators, MarA, SoxS and Rob, activate a common set of promoters, the marA/soxS/rob regulon of Escherichia coli, by binding a cognate site (marbox) upstream of each promoter. The extent of activation varies from one promoter to another and is only poorly correlated with the in vitro affinity of the activator for the specific marbox. Here, we examine the dependence of promoter activation on the level of activator in vivo by manipulating the steady-state concentrations of MarA and SoxS in Lon protease mutants and measuring promoter activation using lacZ transcriptional fusions. We found that: (i) the MarA concentrations needed for half-maximal stimulation varied by at least 19-fold among the 10 promoters tested; (ii) most marboxes were not saturated when there were 24,000 molecules of MarA per cell; (iii) the correlation between MarA concentration needed for half-maximal promoter activity in vivo with marbox binding affinity in vitro was poor and (iv) the two activators differed in their promoter activation profiles. The marRAB and sodA promoters could both be saturated by MarA and SoxS in vivo. However, saturation by MarA resulted in greater marRAB and lesser sodA transcription than did saturation by SoxS implying that the two activators interact with RNAP in different ways at the different promoters. Thus, the concentration and nature of activator determines which regulon promoters are activated and the extent of their activation.
gene regulation; AraC protein family; stress response
The marRAB operon is a regulatory locus that controls multiple drug resistance in Escherichia coli. marA encodes a positive regulator of the antibiotic resistance response, acting by altering the expression of unlinked genes. marR encodes a repressor of marRAB transcription and controls the production of MarA in response to environmental signals. A molecular and genetic study of the homologous operon in Salmonella typhimurium was undertaken, and the role of marA in virulence in a murine model was assessed. Expression of E. coli marA (marAEC) present on a multicopy plasmid in S. typhimurium resulted in a multiple antibiotic resistance (Mar) phenotype, suggesting that a similar regulon exists in this organism. A genomic plasmid library containing S. typhimurium chromosomal sequences was introduced into an E. coli strain that was deleted for the mar locus and contained a single-copy marR'-'lacZ translational fusion. Plasmid clones that contained both S. typhimurium marR (marRSt) and marA (marASt) genes were identified as those that were capable of repressing expression of the fusion and which resulted in a Mar phenotype. The predicted amino acid sequences of MarRSt, MarASt, and MarBSt were 91, 86, and 42% identical, respectively, to the same genes from E. coli, while the operator/promoter region of the operon was 86% identical to the same 98-nucleotide-upstream region in E. coli. The marRAB transcriptional start sites for both organisms were determined by primer extension, and a marRABSt transcript of approximately 1.1 kb was identified by Northern blot analysis. Its accumulation was shown to be inducible by sodium salicylate. Open reading frames flanking the marRAB operon were also conserved. An S. typhimurium marA disruption strain was constructed by an allelic exchange method and compared to the wild-type strain for virulence in a murine BALB/c infection model. No effect on virulence was noted. The endogenous S. typhimurium plasmid that is associated with virulence played no role in marA-mediated multiple antibiotic resistance. Taken together, the data show that the S. typhimurium mar locus is structurally and functionally similar to marRABEc and that a lesion in marASt has no effect on S. typhimurium virulence for BALB/c mice.
MarA, an AraC/XylS transcriptional regulator in Escherichia coli, affects drug susceptibility and virulence. Two MarA-like proteins have been found in Yersinia pestis: MarA47 and MarA48. Deletion or overexpression of these proteins in the attenuated KIM 1001 Δpgm strain led to a change in multidrug susceptibility (including susceptibility to clinically relevant drugs). Additionally, lung colonization by the marA47 or marA48 deletion mutant was decreased about 10-fold in a pneumonic plague mouse model. Complementation of the deletions by replacing the deleted genes on the chromosome restored wild-type characteristics. These findings show that two MarA homologs in Y. pestis affect antibiotic susceptibility and virulence.
The Rob protein of Escherichia coli is a member of the AraC-XylS family of prokaryotic transcriptional regulators and is expressed constitutively. Deletion of the rob gene increases susceptibility to organic solvents, while overexpression of Rob increases tolerance to organic solvents and resistance to a variety of antibiotics and to the superoxide-generating compound phenazine methosulfate. To determine whether constitutive levels of Rob regulate basal gene expression, we performed a MudJ transposon screen in a rob deletion mutant containing a plasmid that allows for controlled rob gene expression. We identified eight genes and confirmed that seven are transcriptionally activated by normal expression of Rob from the chromosomal rob gene (inaA, marR, aslB, ybaO, mdlA, yfhD, and ybiS). One gene, galT, was repressed by Rob. We also demonstrated by Northern analysis that basal expression of micF is significantly higher in wild-type E. coli than in a rob deletion mutant. Rob binding to the promoter regions of most of these genes was substantiated in electrophoretic mobility shift assays. However, Mu insertions in individual Rob-regulated genes did not affect solvent sensitivity. This phenotype may depend on changes in the expression of several of these Rob-regulated genes or on other genes that were not identified. Rob clearly affects the basal expression of genes with a broad range of functions, including antibiotic resistance, acid adaptation, carbon metabolism, cell wall synthesis, central intermediary metabolism, and transport. The magnitudes of Rob's effects are modest, however, and the protein may thus play a role as a general transcription cofactor.
Resistance to multiple antibiotics and certain oxidative stress compounds was conferred by three independently selected mutations (marR1, soxQ1, and cfxB1) that mapped to 34 min on the Escherichia coli chromosome. Mutations at this locus can activate the marRAB operon, in which marR encodes a putative repressor of mar transcription and marA encodes a putative transcriptional activator of defense genes against antibiotics and oxidants. Overexpression of the wild-type MarR protein reversed the phenotypes (antibiotic resistance and increased antioxidant enzyme synthesis) of all three mutants. DNA sequence analysis showed that, like marR1, the other two mutations were alterations of marR: a 285-bp deletion in cfxB1 and a GC-->AT transition at codon 70 (Ala-->Thr) in soxQ1. All three mutations cause increased amounts of mar-specific RNA, which supports the hypothesis that MarR has a repressor function in the expression of the marRAB operon. The level of mar RNA was further induced by tetracycline in both the marR1 and soxQ1 strains but not in the cfxB1 deletion mutant. In the cfxB1 strain, the level of expression of a truncated RNA, with or without tetracycline exposure, was the same as the fully induced level in the other two mutants. Overproduction of MarR in the cfxB1 strain repressed the transcription of the truncated RNA and restored transcriptional inducibility by tetracycline. Thus, induction of the marRAB operon results from the relief of the repression exerted by MarR. The marRAB operon evidently activates both antibiotic resistance and oxidative stress genes.
Escherichia coli responds to oxidative stress by activating sets of coregulated genes that help the cell to maintain homeostasis. Identified previously by genetic and biochemical approaches, the soxRS system mediates the induction of 18 of these redox-inducible genes (including the soxS gene itself). An overlapping set of genes is activated by an assortment of structurally unrelated molecules with antibiotic activities; many genes in this response are controlled by the marRAB system. The activation of either the soxRS or the marRAB system results in enhanced resistance to both superoxide-generating agents and multiple antibiotics. In order to probe the extent of these regulatory networks, we have measured whole-genome transcriptional profiles of the E. coli response to the superoxide-generating agent paraquat (PQ), an inducer of the soxRS system, and to the weak acid salt sodium salicylate (NaSal), an inducer of the marRA system. A total of 112 genes was modulated in response to PQ, while 134 genes were modulated in response to NaSal. We have also obtained transcriptional profiles of the SoxS and MarA regulons in the absence of global stress, in order to establish the regulatory hierarchies within the global responses. Several previously unrelated genes were shown to be under SoxS or MarA control. The genetic responses to both environmental insults revealed several common themes, including the activation of genes coding for functions that replenish reducing potential; regulate iron transport and storage; and participate in sugar and amino acid transport, detoxification, protein modification, osmotic protection, and peptidoglycan synthesis. A large number of PQ- and NaSal-responsive genes have no known function, suggesting that many adaptive metabolic changes that ensue after stress remain uncharacterized.
Multiple factors control the expression of the outer membrane porins OmpF and OmpC in Escherichia coli. In this work, we investigated the role of the mar-sox-rob regulon in regulating outer membrane porin expression in response to salicylate. We provide both genetic and physiological evidence that MarA and Rob can independently activate micF transcription in response to salicylate, leading to reduced OmpF expression. MarA was also found to repress OmpF expression through a MicF-independent pathway. In the case of OmpC, we found that its transcription was moderately increased in response to salicylate. However, this increase was independent of MarA and Rob. Finally, we found that the reduction in OmpF expression in a tolC mutant is due primarily to Rob. Collectively, this work further clarifies the coordinated role of MarA and Rob in regulating the expression of the outer membrane porins.
Escherichia coli mutants with improved organic solvent tolerance levels showed high levels of outer membrane protein TolC and inner membrane protein AcrA. The TolC level was regulated positively by MarA, Rob, or SoxS. A possible mar-rob-sox box sequence was found upstream of the tolC gene. These findings suggest that tolC is a member of the mar-sox regulon responsive to stress conditions. When a defective tolC gene was transferred to n-hexane- or cyclohexane-tolerant strains by P1 transduction, the organic solvent tolerance level was lowered dramatically to the decane-tolerant and nonane-sensitive level. The tolerance level was restored by transformation of the transductants with a wild-type tolC gene. Therefore, it is evident that TolC is essential for E. coli to maintain organic solvent tolerance.
Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium have evolved genetic systems, such as the soxR/S and marA regulons, to detoxify reactive oxygen species, like superoxide, which are formed as by-products of metabolism. Superoxide also serves as a microbicidal effector mechanism of the host's phagocytes. Here, we investigate whether regulatory genes other than soxR/S and marA are active in response to oxidative stress in Salmonella and may function as virulence determinants. We identified a bacterial gene, which was designated ramA (342 bp) and mapped at 13.1 min on the Salmonella chromosome, that, when overexpressed on a plasmid in E. coli or Salmonella, confers a pleiotropic phenotype characterized by increased resistance to the redox-cycling agent menadione and to multiple unrelated antibiotics. The ramA gene is present in Salmonella serovars but is absent in E. coli. The gene product displays 37 to 52% homology to the transcriptional activators soxR/S and marA and 80 to 100% identity to a multidrug resistance gene in Klebsiella pneumoniae and Salmonella enterica serovar Paratyphi A. Although a ramA soxR/S double null mutant is highly susceptible to intracellular superoxide generated by menadione and displays decreased Mn-superoxide dismutase activity, intracellular survival of this mutant within macrophage-like RAW 264.7 cells and in vivo replication in the spleens in Ityr mice are not affected. We concluded that despite its role in the protective response of the bacteria to oxidative stress in vitro, the newly identified ramA gene, together with soxR/S, does not play a role in initial replication of Salmonella in the organs of mice.
The soxRS regulon is a cornerstone of the adaptive defense systems of Escherichia coli against oxidative stress. Unexpectedly, activation of this regulon also enhances bacterial resistance to multiple antibiotics that seem unrelated to oxygen radicals. We previously correlated this multiple antibiotic resistance with a reduced rate of synthesis of the OmpF outer membrane porin that does not affect the OmpC or OmpA porins. Studies presented here, with operon and gene fusions of ompF to lacZ, show that the soxRS-dependent repression of OmpF is achieved posttranscriptionally. We also show posttranscriptional repression of OmpF mediated by the soxQ1 mutation, which maps to the marA locus. These repressions are dependent on the micF gene, which encodes a small RNA partially complementary to the 5' end of the ompF message. Northern (RNA) blotting experiments show that micF transcription is strongly inducible by the superoxide-generating agent paraquat in a manner that depends completely on the soxRS locus. The soxR-constitutive and soxQ1 mutations elevate the expression of micF in the absence of redox stress. However, the antibiotic resistance mediated by a soxR-constitutive mutation was only partially reversed upon deletion of micF. The soxRS regulon therefore includes other components that contribute to general antibiotic resistance, although the relation of this phenotype to oxidative stress remains to be established.