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J Bacteriol. 1993 Mar; 175(5): 1484–1492.
PMCID: PMC193236

Genetic and functional analysis of the multiple antibiotic resistance (mar) locus in Escherichia coli.

Abstract

A 7.8-kbp fragment of chromosomal DNA from a region controlling multiple antibiotic resistance (Mar) in Escherichia coli has been sequenced. Within the fragment is a potential divergent promoter region including marO, which contains two pairs of direct repeats, suggesting possible operator-regulatory sites. To the left of marO (region I) are one or two transcriptional units with three putative open reading frames (ORFs) encoding 64, 157, and 70 amino acids. To the right (region II) is a transcriptional unit containing three putative ORFs (ORF125/144, ORF129, and ORF72). Of six independent Mar mutants, four had mutations within the ORF encoding the first putative protein (ORF125/144) downstream of marO, including three different single-point mutations and an IS2 insertion. One of the other mutations occurred in marO (20-bp duplication), and the other occurred in a site in marO or ORF144 (a 1-bp change). All six mutations led to increased transcription of the region II transcript. High-copy-number plasmids containing marO and the adjacent ORF125/144 region from a wild-type source but not from a Mar mutant reduced the antibiotic resistance of a Mar mutant to levels comparable to those of wild-type cells. High-copy-number plasmids containing wild-type marO alone caused an increase in resistance to tetracycline, chloramphenicol, and norfloxacin in a wild-type strain. The nature of the Mar mutations and the results of the complementation studies suggest that ORF125/144 encodes a repressor (designated MarR) which acts at marO. The second ORF (ORF129), designated marA, would encode a protein, MarA, whose sequence shows strong similarity to those of a family of positive transcriptional regulators. A Tn5 insertion in marA inactivated the multiresistance phenotype of Mar mutants. The function of ORF72, designated marB, encoding the third putative protein in the operon, and that of other ORFs detected within the 7.8-kb fragment have not yet been determined.

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Selected References

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