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1.  Purification and regulatory properties of MarA protein, a transcriptional activator of Escherichia coli multiple antibiotic and superoxide resistance promoters. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1995;177(24):7100-7104.
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.
PMCID: PMC177587  PMID: 8522515
2.  Activation of multiple antibiotic resistance and binding of stress-inducible promoters by Escherichia coli Rob protein. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1995;177(7):1655-1661.
Multiple antibiotic resistance in Escherichia coli can be mediated by induction of the SoxS or MarA protein, triggered by oxygen radicals (in the soxRS regulon) or certain antibiotics (in the marRAB regulon), respectively. These small proteins (SoxS, 107 residues; MarA, 127 residues) are homologous to the C terminus of the XylS-AraC family of proteins and are more closely related to a approximately 100-residue segment in the N terminus of Rob protein, which binds the right arm of the replication origin, oriC. We investigated whether the SoxS-MarA homology in Rob might extend to the regulation of some of the same inducible genes. Overexpression of Rob indeed conferred multiple antibiotic resistance similar to that known for SoxS and MarA (against chloramphenicol, tetracycline, nalidixic acid, and puromycin), as well as resistance to the superoxide-generating compound phenazine methosulfate. The Rob-induced antibiotic resistance depended only partially on the micF antisense RNA that down-regulates the OmpF outer membrane porin to limit antibiotic uptake. Similar antibiotic resistance was conferred by expression of a Rob fragment containing only the N-terminal 123 residues that constitute the SoxS-MarA homology. Both intact Rob and the N-terminal fragment activated expression of stress genes (inaA, fumC, sodA) but with a pattern distinct from that found for SoxS and MarA. Purified Rob protein bound a DNA fragment containing the micF promoter (50% bound at approximately 10(-9) M Rob) as strongly as it did oriC, and it bound more weakly to DNA containing the sodA, nfo, or zwf promoter (50% bound at 10(-8) to 10(-7) M). Rob formed multiple DNA-protein complexes with these fragments, as seen previously for SoxS. These data point to a DNA-binding gene activator module used in different protein contexts.
PMCID: PMC176790  PMID: 7896685
3.  Autoactivation of the marRAB multiple antibiotic resistance operon by the MarA transcriptional activator in Escherichia coli. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1996;178(8):2216-2223.
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.
PMCID: PMC177928  PMID: 8636021
4.  Constitutive SoxS Expression in a Fluoroquinolone-Resistant Strain with a Truncated SoxR Protein and Identification of a New Member of the marA-soxS-rob Regulon, mdtG▿  
Elevated levels of fluoroquinolone resistance are frequently found among Escherichia coli clinical isolates. This study investigated the antibiotic resistance mechanisms of strain NorE5, derived in vitro by exposing an E. coli clinical isolate, PS5, to two selection steps with increasing concentrations of norfloxacin. In addition to the amino acid substitution in GyrA (S83L) present in PS5, NorE5 has an amino acid change in ParC (S80R). Furthermore, we now find by Western blotting that NorE5 has a multidrug resistance phenotype resulting from the overexpression of the antibiotic resistance efflux pump AcrAB-TolC. Microarray and gene fusion analyses revealed significantly increased expression in NorE5 of soxS, a transcriptional activator of acrAB and tolC. The high soxS activity is attributable to a frameshift mutation that truncates SoxR, rendering it a constitutive transcriptional activator of soxS. Furthermore, microarray and reverse transcription-PCR analyses showed that mdtG (yceE), encoding a putative efflux pump, is overexpressed in the resistant strain. SoxS, MarA, and Rob activated an mdtG::lacZ fusion, and SoxS was shown to bind to the mdtG promoter, showing that mdtG is a member of the marA-soxS-rob regulon. The mdtG marbox sequence is in the backward or class I orientation within the promoter, and its disruption resulted in a loss of inducibility by MarA, SoxS, and Rob. Thus, chromosomal mutations in parC and soxR are responsible for the increased antibiotic resistance of NorE5.
PMCID: PMC2825980  PMID: 20008776
5.  An Excretory Function for the Escherichia coli Outer Membrane Pore TolC: Upregulation of marA and soxS Transcription and Rob Activity Due to Metabolites Accumulated in tolC Mutants ▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2009;191(16):5283-5292.
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.
PMCID: PMC2725600  PMID: 19502391
6.  Activation of the E. coli marA/soxS/rob regulon in response to transcriptional activator concentration 
Journal of molecular biology  2008;380(2):278-284.
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.
PMCID: PMC2614912  PMID: 18514222
gene regulation; AraC protein family; stress response
7.  Model of Transcriptional Activation by MarA in Escherichia coli 
PLoS Computational Biology  2009;5(12):e1000614.
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.
Author Summary
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.
PMCID: PMC2787020  PMID: 20019803
8.  Two functions of the C-terminal domain of Escherichia coli Rob: mediating “sequestration-dispersal” as a novel off-on switch for regulating Rob’s activity as a transcription activator and preventing degradation of Rob by Lon protease 
Journal of molecular biology  2009;388(3):415-430.
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.
PMCID: PMC2728042  PMID: 19289129
gene regulation; intracellular localization; immunofluorescence microscopy; anti-sigma factor; proteolysis
9.  Promoter Discrimination at Class I MarA Regulon Promoters Mediated by Glutamic Acid 89 of the MarA Transcriptional Activator of Escherichia coli▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2010;193(2):506-515.
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.
PMCID: PMC3019838  PMID: 21097628
10.  Transcriptional activation by MarA, SoxS and Rob of two tolC promoters using one binding site: a complex promoter configuration for tolC in Escherichia coli 
Molecular microbiology  2008;69(6):1450-1455.
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.
PMCID: PMC2574956  PMID: 18673442
gene regulation; outer membrane protein; transcriptional start sites; efflux pumps; antibiotic resistance
11.  Oxygen, iron, carbon, and superoxide control of the fumarase fumA and fumC genes of Escherichia coli: role of the arcA, fnr, and soxR gene products. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1995;177(21):6255-6262.
The tricarboxylic acid cycle enzyme fumarase catalyzes the interconversion of fumarate to L-malate. Escherichia coli contains three biochemically distinct fumarases. While the fumA and fumB genes encode heat-labile, iron-containing fumarases, the fumC gene product is a heat-stable fumarase which does not require iron for activity. To study how the fumA and fumC genes are regulated, we constructed lacZ operon fusions to the fumA and/or fumC upstream regions. Expression of the fumA and fumC genes was lowest during anaerobic cell growth, in support of the proposed roles of FumA and FumC as aerobic fumarases. Transcription of the fumC gene was shown to be complex: it was dependent on both the fumA and fumC promoters. Anaerobic expression from the fumA promoter was derepressed in both an arcA and a fnr mutant, while expression from the fumC promoter was derepressed in only the arcA strain. The fumA promoter was also shown to be catabolite controlled, whereas the fumC promoter was relatively unaffected by the type of carbon used for cell growth. Cellular iron limitation stimulated fumC but not fumA expression. Superoxide radicals also caused increased fumC gene expression; fumA expression was unaffected. Both the superoxide control and the iron control of fumC expression required the SoxR regulatory protein. These studies suggest different physiological roles for the FumA and FumC fumarases. The iron-containing FumA fumarase is the more abundant enzyme under most conditions of aerobic cell growth except when iron is limiting; FumC, which lacks iron, appears to be a backup enzyme that is synthesized optimally only when iron is low or when superoxide radicals accumulate.
PMCID: PMC177467  PMID: 7592392
12.  A cluster of constitutive mutations affecting the C-terminus of the redox-sensitive SoxR transcriptional activator. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1994;22(15):2958-2962.
Activation of Escherichia coli oxidative stress regulon genes (sodA, zwf, fumC, nfo, etc.) is mediated by a two-stage regulatory system: the redox-sensitive SoxR protein transcriptionally activates the soxS gene, whose product then stimulates transcription of the regulon genes. Previous experiments showed that limited 3' truncation of soxR gene causes constitutive soxRS expression. DNA sequence analysis of the soxR genes from the soxRS-constitutive strains isolated originally (Greenberg et al. (1990) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 87, 6181-6185) revealed that three alleles encode amino acid substitutions or a chain termination clustered near the C-terminus of SoxR. Two other single-amino-acid substitutions in constitutive alleles mapped to the helix-turn-helix motif and to a region of unknown function in the center of the polypeptide, respectively. No constitutive mutation was found within the region encoding the cysteines of the SoxR FeS center, in the soxR or soxS promoters, or in the soxS structural gene. Since an in-frame deletion of just nine SoxR residues (136-144; full-length SoxR = 154 residues) gave rise to a powerful constitutive allele, it appears that a small segment of the SoxR C-terminus maintains the protein in the inactive state. Conservely, an intact C-terminus is evidently not required for gene activation by SoxR.
PMCID: PMC310261  PMID: 8065907
13.  Fis, an accessorial factor for transcriptional activation of the mar (multiple antibiotic resistance) promoter of Escherichia coli in the presence of the activator MarA, SoxS, or Rob. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1997;179(23):7410-7419.
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.
PMCID: PMC179692  PMID: 9393706
14.  Role of the acrAB locus in organic solvent tolerance mediated by expression of marA, soxS, or robA in Escherichia coli. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1997;179(19):6122-6126.
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.
PMCID: PMC179517  PMID: 9324261
15.  Transcriptional Cross Talk within the mar-sox-rob Regulon in Escherichia coli Is Limited to the rob and marRAB Operons 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(18):4867-4875.
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.
PMCID: PMC3430332  PMID: 22753060
16.  Posttranscriptional repression of Escherichia coli OmpF protein in response to redox stress: positive control of the micF antisense RNA by the soxRS locus. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1993;175(4):1026-1031.
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.
PMCID: PMC193015  PMID: 7679383
17.  Genetic definition of the Escherichia coli zwf "soxbox," the DNA binding site for SoxS-mediated induction of glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase in response to superoxide. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1995;177(7):1742-1750.
In Escherichia coli K-12, transcription of zwf, the gene for glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase, is subject to growth rate-dependent regulation and is activated by SoxS in response to superoxide stress. To define genetically the site of SoxS activation, we undertook a detailed deletion analysis of the zwf promoter region. Using specifically targeted 5' and 3' deletions of zwf sequences, we localized the SoxS activation site to a 21-bp region upstream of the zwf promoter. This minimal "soxbox" was able to confer paraquat inducibility when placed upstream of a normally unresponsive gnd-lacZ protein fusion. In addition, we used these findings as the basis for resecting unnecessary sequences from the region upstream of the promoters of two other SoxS-regulated genes, sodA and nfo. Like the zwf soxbox, the regions required for SoxS activation of sodA and nfo appear to lie just upstream or overlap the -35 hexamers of the corresponding promoters. Importantly, the sequence boundaries established here by deletion analysis agree with the primary SoxS recognition sites of zwf, sodA, and nfo that we previously identified in vitro by gel mobility shift and DNase I protection assays with a purified MalE-SoxS fusion protein.
PMCID: PMC176801  PMID: 7896696
18.  Role of the mar-sox-rob Regulon in Regulating Outer Membrane Porin Expression▿† 
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(9):2252-2260.
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.
PMCID: PMC3133058  PMID: 21398557
19.  Identification and analysis of aarP, a transcriptional activator of the 2'-N-acetyltransferase in Providencia stuartii. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1995;177(12):3407-3413.
The aarP gene has been identified in a search for activators of the 2-N-acetyltransferase [encoded by aac(2')-Ia] in Providencia stuartii. Introduction of aarP into P. stuartii on a multicopy plasmid resulted in a 9.9-fold increase in the accumulation of beta-galactosidase from an aac(2')-lacZ fusion. Northern (RNA) blot analysis demonstrated that this increased aac(2')-Ia expression occurred at the level of mRNA accumulation. The deduced AarP protein was 15,898 Da in size and exhibited significant homology to a number of transcriptional activators in the AraC/XyIS family, including TetD,Rob, MarA, and SoxS. The similarity of AarP to the MarA and SoxS proteins prompted an investigation to determine whether AarP is involved in activation of genes in either the multiple antibiotic resistance (Mar) phenotype or redox stress (SoxRS) system. Introduction of aarP on a multicopy plasmid into either P. stuartii or Escherichia coli conferred a Mar phenotype with higher levels of resistance to tetracycline, chloramphenicol, and ciprofloxacin. Multiple copies of aarP in E. coli also resulted in activation of the endonuclease IV gene (nfo), a gene in the SoxRS regulon of E. coli. The function of aarP in its single-copy state was addressed by using allelic replacement to construct an aarP::Cm disruption, which resulted in a fivefold reduction in the accumulation of aac(2')-Ia mRNA. Analysis of aarP regulation showed that aarP mRNA accumulation was slightly increased by exposure to tetracycline and dramatically increased in cells containing the aarB3 (aar3) mutation, which was previously shown to increase transcription of the aac(2')-Ia gene. (P.N. Rather, E. Oroz, K.J. Shaw, R. Hare, and G. Miller, J. Bacteriol. 175:6492-6498).
PMCID: PMC177042  PMID: 7768849
20.  A rob-like gene of Enterobacter cloacae affecting porin synthesis and susceptibility to multiple antibiotics. 
A chromosomal gene of Enterobacter cloacae affecting the synthesis of major outer membrane proteins in E. cloacae and Escherichia coli was cloned by using selection for resistance to cefoxitin in E. coli. The presence of the gene, when plasmid-borne, led to a decrease in the amount of porin F in E. cloacae and the amount of OmpF in E. coli and caused 2- to 32-fold increases in the MICs of chloramphenicol, tetracycline, quinolones, and beta-lactam antibiotics. The gene encoded a 33-kDa protein, similar (83% identity) to the protein Rob involved in the initiation of DNA replication in E. coli, which was called RobA(EC1) by analogy. RobA from E. cloacae was found to inhibit ompF expression at the posttranscriptional level via activation of micF, a gene also apparently present in E. cloacae, as detected by PCR. As with its homolog from E. coli, RobA(EC1) is related to the XylS-AraC class of positive transcriptional regulators, along with MarA and SoxS, which also cause a micF-mediated decrease in the level of ampF expression.
PMCID: PMC163467  PMID: 8878575
21.  Transcription Activation by Escherichia coli Rob at Class II Promoters: Protein–Protein Interactions between Rob’s N-Terminal Domain and the σ70 Subunit of RNA Polymerase 
Journal of molecular biology  2012;419(0):139-157.
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.
PMCID: PMC3640845  PMID: 22465792
SoxS; genetic epistasis; σ70 R4; prerecruitment; Rob−micF crystal structure
22.  SoxS Increases the Expression of the Zinc Uptake System ZnuACB in an Escherichia coli Murine Pyelonephritis Model 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(5):1177-1185.
Paralogous transcriptional regulators MarA, Rob, and SoxS act individually and together to control expression of more than 80 Escherichia coli genes. Deletion of marA, rob, and soxS from an E. coli clinical isolate prevents persistence beyond 2 days postinfection in a mouse model of pyelonephritis. We used microarray analysis to identify 242 genes differentially expressed between the triple deletion mutant and its parent strain at 2 days postinfection in the kidney. One of these, znuC of the zinc transport system ZnuACB, displayed decreased expression in the triple mutant compared to that in the parental strain, and deletion of znuC from the parental strain reduced persistence. The marA rob soxS triple deletion mutant was less viable in vitro under limited-Zn and Zn-depleted conditions, while disruption of znuC caused a reduction in the growth rates for the parental and triple mutant strains to equally low levels under limited-Zn or Zn-depleted conditions. Complementation of the triple mutant with soxS, but not marA or rob, restored the parental growth rate in Zn-depleted medium, while deletion of only soxS from the parental strain led to low growth in Zn-depleted medium. Both results suggested that SoxS is a major regulator responsible for growth under Zn-depleted conditions. Gel shift experiments failed to show direct binding of SoxS to the znuCB promoter, thus suggesting indirect control of znuCB expression by SoxS. While SoxS expression in the triple mutant fully restored persistence, increased expression of znuACB via a plasmid in this mutant only partially restored wild-type levels of persistence in the kidney. This work implicates SoxS control of znuCB expression as a key factor in persistence of E. coli in murine pyelonephritis.
PMCID: PMC3294818  PMID: 22210763
23.  ompW is cooperatively upregulated by MarA and SoxS in response to menadione 
Microbiology  2013;159(Pt 4):715-725.
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.
PMCID: PMC3709825  PMID: 23393149
24.  Two-stage induction of the soxRS (superoxide response) regulon of Escherichia coli. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1992;174(12):3915-3920.
soxR and soxS are adjacent genes that govern a superoxide response regulon. Previous studies revealed that induction of the regulon is accompanied by increased transcription of soxS, which can activate the target genes. Therefore, induction may occur in two stages: the soxR-dependent activation of soxS, followed by the soxS-dependent induction of other genes. However, the requirement for soxR was unproven because the only existing soxR mutations either were of the regulon-constitutive type or also involved soxS. Therefore, we produced an insertion mutation that was shown by complementation to inactivate only soxR. In confirmation of the two-stage model, soxR was required for the induction by paraquat of the target genes studied (nfo, zwf, and sodA), for paraquat resistance, and for the 47- to 76-fold induction of soxS-lacZ gene fusions. Paraquat did not affect the expression of soxR-lacZ gene fusions. In a soxRS deletion mutant, the regulon was constitutively activated by a runaway soxS+ plasmid. However, a lower-copy-number plasmid failed to activate nfo, zwf, or sodA but did increase the paraquat resistance of a soxRS mutant. Therefore, there is a differential response of the regulon genes to soxS overproduction. A soxR regulon-constitutive mutation was suppressed by a soxR+ plasmid, suggesting a competition between native and activated forms of SoxR. It is proposed that to enhance the sensitivity of the response, the cell minimizes such potential competition by manufacturing only a small amount of this sensor protein, thereby necessitating signal amplification via induction of soxS.
PMCID: PMC206099  PMID: 1317841
25.  Activation of oxidative stress genes by mutations at the soxQ/cfxB/marA locus of Escherichia coli. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1991;173(14):4433-4439.
Exposure of Escherichia coli to superoxide-generating drugs, such as menadione or paraquat, uniquely induces approximately 40 proteins, nine of which are under the positive control of the soxR locus (at min 92). We report here that certain mutations at a separate locus that we have named soxQ (at min 34) confer some of the phenotypes seen in soxR-constitutive strains, including resistance to menadione. A previously known mutation called cfxB, identified through antibiotic resistance, is likely an allele of soxQ. The soxQ1 and cfxB mutations cause transcriptional activation of the genes that encode Mn-containing superoxide dismutase, glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase, and the soi-17/19::lac and soi-28::lac fusions. These genes are also activated by soxR, but the soxQ1 and cfxB mutations increase the synthesis of seven other proteins not influenced by soxR. Moreover, the soxQ1- and cfxB-dependent phenotypes do not depend on the soxR gene, and gene induction by soxR in response to redox stress does not depend on the soxQ locus. As well as increasing cellular resistance to some oxidants, the soxQ1 and cfxB mutations confer elevated resistance to various antibiotics, probably via diminished expression of outer membrane protein OmpF. The marA1 multiple-antibiotic resistance mutation (also at min 34) behaves like a weak allele of soxQ but probably resides in a nearby gene that, with soxQ, is part of a regulatory complex. We propose that soxQ helps control some oxidative stress proteins as part of another regulon that responds to an unknown environmental signal.
PMCID: PMC208106  PMID: 1648558

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