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1.  Organic solvent tolerance and antibiotic resistance increased by overexpression of marA in Escherichia coli. 
We previously reported that overexpression of the soxS or robA gene causes in several Escherichia coli strains the acquisition of higher organic solvent tolerance and also increased resistance to a number of antibiotics (H. Nakajima, K. Kobayashi, M. Kobayashi, H. Asako, and R. Aono, Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 61:2302-2307, 1995). Most E. coli strains cannot grow in the presence of cyclohexane. We isolated the marRAB genes from a Kohara lambda phage clone and cyclohexane-tolerant mutant strain OST3408. We found a substitution of serine for arginine at position 73 in the coding region of marR of OST3408 and designated the gene marR08. Our genetic analysis revealed that marR08 is responsible for the cyclohexane-tolerant phenotype. We observed that the marA gene on high-copy-number plasmids increased the organic solvent tolerance of E. coli strains. Furthermore, exposure of E. coli cells to salicylate, which activates the mar regulon genes, also raised organic solvent tolerance. Overexpression of the marA, soxS, or robA gene increased resistance to numerous antibiotics but not to hydrophilic aminoglycosides.
PMCID: PMC168437  PMID: 9097440
2.  Overexpression of the robA gene increases organic solvent tolerance and multiple antibiotic and heavy metal ion resistance in Escherichia coli. 
Escherichia coli K-12 OST3410 was isolated previously as a stable cyclohexane-tolerant mutant derived from cyclohexane-sensitive strain JA300. A plasmid which provides cyclohexane tolerance to strain JA300 was isolated from the OST3410 genomic library. Subcloning and sequence analysis showed that the plasmid contained the robA gene, whose gene product was reported to bind specifically to the right border of oriC. We observed that the robA gene on the multicopy plasmid generally increased the organic solvent tolerance of several E. coli strains. We also observed an increase in the organic solvent tolerance of JA300 carrying the lac-robA fusion gene on a low-copy plasmid by isopropyl-beta-D-thiogalactopyranoside induction. Strain JA300 carrying the multicopy robA plasmid also showed an increase in resistance to a number of unrelated antibiotics and heavy metal ions, and the spectrum of resistance was significantly similar to that of the soxS-overexpressing strain.
PMCID: PMC167502  PMID: 7793951
3.  Involvement of Outer Membrane Protein TolC, a Possible Member of the mar-sox Regulon, in Maintenance and Improvement of Organic Solvent Tolerance of Escherichia coli K-12 
Journal of Bacteriology  1998;180(4):938-944.
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.
PMCID: PMC106975  PMID: 9473050
4.  Overexpression of the marA or soxS Regulatory Gene in Clinical Topoisomerase Mutants of Escherichia coli 
The contribution of regulatory genes to fluoroquinolone resistance was studied with clinical Escherichia coli strains bearing mutations in gyrA and parC and with different levels of fluoroquinolone resistance. Expression of marA and soxS was evaluated by Northern blot analysis of isolates that demonstrated increased organic solvent tolerance, a phenotype that has been linked to overexpression of marA, soxS, and rob. Among 25 cyclohexane-tolerant strains detected by a screen for increased organic solvent tolerance (M. Oethinger, W. V. Kern, J. D. Goldman, and S. B. Levy, J. Antimicrob. Chemother. 41:111–114, 1998), we found 5 Mar mutants and 4 Sox mutants. A further Mar mutant was detected among 11 fluoroquinolone-resistant, cyclohexane-susceptible E. coli strains used as controls. Comparison of the marOR sequences of clinical Mar mutants with that of E. coli K-12 (GenBank accession no. M96235) revealed point mutations in marR in all mutants which correlated with loss of repressor function as detected in a marO::lacZ transcriptional assay. We found four other amino acid changes in MarR that did not lead to loss of function. Two of these changes, present in 20 of the 35 sequenced marOR fragments, identified a variant genotype of marOR. Isolates with the same gyrA and parC mutations showed increased fluoroquinolone resistance when the mutations were accompanied by overexpression of marA or soxS. These data support the hypothesis that high-level fluoroquinolone resistance involves mutations at several chromosomal loci, comprising structural and regulatory genes.
PMCID: PMC105868  PMID: 9687412
5.  Organic Solvent Tolerance of Escherichia coli Is Independent of OmpF Levels in the Membrane 
The organic solvent tolerance of Escherichia coli was measured under conditions in which OmpF levels were controlled by various means as follows: alteration of NaCl concentration in the medium, transformation with a stress-responsive gene (marA, robA, or soxS), or disruption of the ompF gene. It was shown that solvent tolerance of E. coli did not depend upon OmpF levels in the membrane.
PMCID: PMC91017  PMID: 9872794
6.  Contributions of mutations in acrR and marR genes to organic solvent tolerance in Escherichia coli 
AMB Express  2012;2:58.
The AcrAB-TolC efflux pump is involved in maintaining intrinsic organic solvent tolerance in Escherichia coli. Mutations in regulatory genes such as marR, soxR, and acrR are known to increase the expression level of the AcrAB-TolC pump. To identify these mutations in organic solvent tolerant E. coli, eight cyclohexane-tolerant E. coli JA300 mutants were isolated and examined by DNA sequencing for mutations in marR, soxR, and acrR. Every mutant carried a mutation in either marR or acrR. Among all mutants, strain CH7 carrying a nonsense mutation in marR (named marR109) and an insertion of IS5 in acrR, exhibited the highest organic solvent-tolerance levels. To clarify the involvement of these mutations in improving organic solvent tolerance, they were introduced into the E. coli JA300 chromosome by site-directed mutagenesis using λ red-mediated homologous recombination. Consequently, JA300 mutants carrying acrR::IS5, marR109, or both were constructed and named JA300 acrRIS, JA300 marR, or JA300 acrRIS marR, respectively. The organic solvent tolerance levels of these mutants were increased in the following order: JA300 < JA300 acrRIS < JA300 marR < JA300 acrRIS marR. JA300 acrRIS marR formed colonies on an agar plate overlaid with cyclohexane and p-xylene (6:4 vol/vol mixture). The organic solvent-tolerance level and AcrAB-TolC efflux pump-expression level in JA300 acrRIS marR were similar to those in CH7. Thus, it was shown that the synergistic effects of mutations in only two regulatory genes, acrR and marR, can significantly increase organic solvent tolerance in E. coli.
doi:10.1186/2191-0855-2-58
PMCID: PMC3514110  PMID: 23148659
Escherichia coli; Organic solvent tolerance; MarR; AcrR; AcrAB-TolC; Efflux pump
7.  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.
doi:10.1016/j.jmb.2009.03.023
PMCID: PMC2728042  PMID: 19289129
gene regulation; intracellular localization; immunofluorescence microscopy; anti-sigma factor; proteolysis
8.  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
9.  Transcriptional activation of promoters of the superoxide and multiple antibiotic resistance regulons by Rob, a binding protein of the Escherichia coli origin of chromosomal replication. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1996;178(9):2507-2513.
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.
PMCID: PMC177972  PMID: 8626315
10.  Defining a rob Regulon in Escherichia coli by Using Transposon Mutagenesis 
Journal of Bacteriology  2000;182(13):3794-3801.
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.
PMCID: PMC94552  PMID: 10850996
11.  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.
doi:10.1128/JB.00360-10
PMCID: PMC3019838  PMID: 21097628
12.  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.
doi:10.1128/JB.00507-09
PMCID: PMC2725600  PMID: 19502391
13.  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.
doi:10.1128/JB.05451-11
PMCID: PMC3294818  PMID: 22210763
14.  Different effects of transcriptional regulators MarA, SoxS and Rob on susceptibility of Escherichia coli to cationic antimicrobial peptides (CAMPs): Rob-dependent CAMP induction of the marRAB operon 
Microbiology  2010;156(Pt 2):570-578.
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.
doi:10.1099/mic.0.033415-0
PMCID: PMC2890090  PMID: 19926649
15.  Effect of Transcriptional Activators SoxS, RobA, and RamA on Expression of Multidrug Efflux Pump AcrAB-TolC in Enterobacter cloacae 
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  2012;56(12):6256-6266.
Control of membrane permeability is a key step in regulating the intracellular concentration of antibiotics. Efflux pumps confer innate resistance to a wide range of toxic compounds such as antibiotics, dyes, detergents, and disinfectants in members of the Enterobacteriaceae. The AcrAB-TolC efflux pump is involved in multidrug resistance in Enterobacter cloacae. However, the underlying mechanism that regulates the system in this microorganism remains unknown. In Escherichia coli, the transcription of acrAB is upregulated under global stress conditions by proteins such as MarA, SoxS, and Rob. In the present study, two clinical isolates of E. cloacae, EcDC64 (a multidrug-resistant strain overexpressing the AcrAB-TolC efflux pump) and Jc194 (a strain with a basal AcrAB-TolC expression level), were used to determine whether similar global stress responses operate in E. cloacae and also to establish the molecular mechanisms underlying this response. A decrease in susceptibility to erythromycin, tetracycline, telithromycin, ciprofloxacin, and chloramphenicol was observed in clinical isolate Jc194 and, to a lesser extent in EcDC64, in the presence of salicylate, decanoate, tetracycline, and paraquat. Increased expression of the acrAB promoter in the presence of the above-described conditions was observed by flow cytometry and reverse transcription-PCR, by using a reporter fusion protein (green fluorescent protein). The expression level of the AcrAB promoter decreased in E. cloacae EcDC64 derivates deficient in SoxS, RobA, and RamA. Accordingly, the expression level of the AcrAB promoter was higher in E. cloacae Jc194 strains overproducing SoxS, RobA, and RamA. Overall, the data showed that SoxS, RobA, and RamA regulators were associated with the upregulation of acrAB, thus conferring antimicrobial resistance as well as a stress response in E. cloacae. In summary, the regulatory proteins SoxS, RobA, and RamA were cloned and sequenced for the first time in this species. The involvement of these proteins in conferring antimicrobial resistance through upregulation of acrAB was demonstrated in E. cloacae.
doi:10.1128/AAC.01085-12
PMCID: PMC3497196  PMID: 23006750
16.  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
17.  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.
doi:10.1128/JB.00680-12
PMCID: PMC3430332  PMID: 22753060
18.  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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000614
PMCID: PMC2787020  PMID: 20019803
19.  Escherichia coli mar and acrAB Mutants Display No Tolerance to Simple Alcohols 
The inducible Mar phenotype of Escherichia coli is associated with increased tolerance to multiple hydrophobic antibiotics as well as some highly hydrophobic organic solvents such as cyclohexane, mediated mainly through the AcrAB/TolC efflux system. The influence of water miscible alcohols ethanol and 1-propanol on a Mar constitutive mutant and a mar deletion mutant of E. coli K-12, as well as the corresponding strains carrying the additional acrAB deletion, was investigated. In contrast to hydrophobic solvents, all strains were killed in exponential phase by 1-propanol and ethanol at rates comparable to the parent strain. Thus, the Mar phenotype does not protect E. coli from killing by these more polar solvents. Surprisingly, AcrAB does not contribute to an increased alcohol tolerance. In addition, sodium salicylate, at concentrations known to induce the mar operon, was unable to increase 1-propanol or ethanol tolerance. Rather, the toxicity of both solvents was increased in the presence of sodium salicylate. Collectively, the results imply that the resilience of E. coli to water miscible alcohols, in contrast to more hydrophobic solvents, does not depend upon the AcrAB/TolC efflux system, and suggests a lower limit for substrate molecular size and functionality. Implications for the application of microbiological systems in environments containing high contents of water miscible organic solvents, e.g., phage display screening, are discussed.
doi:10.3390/ijms11041403
PMCID: PMC2871122  PMID: 20480026
solvent tolerance; salicylate; ethanol; 1-propanol; mar regulon; hydrophobicity; solvent
20.  In Vitro Selection of ramR and soxR Mutants Overexpressing Efflux Systems by Fluoroquinolones as Well as Cefoxitin in Klebsiella pneumoniae▿ 
The relationship between efflux system overexpression and cross-resistance to cefoxitin, quinolones, and chloramphenicol has recently been reported in Klebsiella pneumoniae. In 3 previously published clinical isolates and 17 in vitro mutants selected with cefoxitin or fluoroquinolones, mutations in the potential regulator genes of the AcrAB efflux pump (acrR, ramR, ramA, marR, marA, soxR, soxS, and rob) were searched, and their impacts on efflux-related antibiotic cross-resistance were assessed. All mutants but 1, and 2 clinical isolates, overexpressed acrB. No mutation was detected in the regulator genes studied among the clinical isolates and 8 of the mutants. For the 9 remaining mutants, a mutation was found in the ramR gene in 8 of them and in the soxR gene in the last one, resulting in overexpression of ramA and soxS, respectively. Transformation of the ramR mutants and the soxR mutant with the wild-type ramR and soxR genes, respectively, abolished overexpression of acrB and ramA in the ramR mutants and of soxS in the soxR mutant, as well as antibiotic cross-resistance. Resistance due to efflux system overexpression was demonstrated for 4 new antibiotics: cefuroxime, cefotaxime, ceftazidime, and ertapenem. This study shows that the ramR and soxR genes control the expression of efflux systems in K. pneumoniae and suggests the existence of efflux pumps other than AcrAB and of other loci involved in the regulation of AcrAB expression.
doi:10.1128/AAC.00156-11
PMCID: PMC3101381  PMID: 21464248
21.  The Salmonella typhimurium mar locus: molecular and genetic analyses and assessment of its role in virulence. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1997;179(6):1857-1866.
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.
PMCID: PMC178907  PMID: 9068629
22.  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
23.  Genetic Characterization of Highly Fluoroquinolone-Resistant Clinical Escherichia coli Strains from China: Role of acrR Mutations 
The genetic basis for fluoroquinolone resistance was examined in 30 high-level fluoroquinolone-resistant Escherichia coli clinical isolates from Beijing, China. Each strain also demonstrated resistance to a variety of other antibiotics. PCR sequence analysis of the quinolone resistance-determining region of the topoisomerase genes (gyrA/B, parC) revealed three to five mutations known to be associated with fluoroquinolone resistance. Western blot analysis failed to demonstrate overexpression of MarA, and Northern blot analysis did not detect overexpression of soxS RNA in any of the clinical strains. The AcrA protein of the AcrAB multidrug efflux pump was overexpressed in 19 of 30 strains of E. coli tested, and all 19 strains were tolerant to organic solvents. PCR amplification of the complete acrR (regulator/repressor) gene of eight isolates revealed amino acid changes in four isolates, a 9-bp deletion in another, and a 22-bp duplication in a sixth strain. Complementation with a plasmid-borne wild-type acrR gene reduced the level of AcrA in the mutants and partially restored antibiotic susceptibility 1.5- to 6-fold. This study shows that mutations in acrR are an additional genetic basis for fluoroquinolone resistance.
doi:10.1128/AAC.45.5.1515-1521.2001
PMCID: PMC90498  PMID: 11302820
24.  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
25.  Genetic relationship between soxRS and mar loci in promoting multiple antibiotic resistance in Escherichia coli. 
Multiple antibiotic resistance in Escherichia coli has typically been associated with mutations at the mar locus, located at 34 min on the E. coli chromosome. A new mutant, marC, isolated on the basis of a Mar phenotype but which maps to the soxRS (encoding the regulators of the superoxide stress response) locus located at 92 min, is described here. This mutant shares several features with a known constitutive allele of the soxRS gene, prompting the conclusion that it is a highly active allele of this gene. The marC mutation has thus been given the designation soxR201. This new mutant was used to examine the relationship between the mar and sox loci in promoting antibiotic resistance. The results of these studies indicate that full antibiotic resistance resulting from the soxR201 mutation is partially dependent on an intact mar locus and is associated with an increase in the steady-state level of mar-specific mRNA. In addition, paraquat treatment of wild-type cells is shown to increase the level of antibiotic resistance in a dose-dependent manner that requires an intact soxRS locus. Conversely, overexpression of MarA from a multicopy plasmid results in weak activation of a superoxide stress response target gene. These findings are consistent with a model in which the regulatory factors encoded by the marA and soxS genes control the expression of overlapping sets of target genes, with MarA preferentially acting on targets involved with antibiotic resistance and SoxS directed primarily towards components of the superoxide stress response. Furthermore, compounds frequently used to induce the superoxide stress response, including paraquat, menadione, and phenazine methosulfate, differ with respect to the amount of protection provided against them by the antibiotic resistance response.
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PMCID: PMC284635  PMID: 7986007

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