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J Bacteriol. Mar 1994; 176(5): 1359–1363.
PMCID: PMC205200

CIRCE, a novel heat shock element involved in regulation of heat shock operon dnaK of Bacillus subtilis.


The dnaK and groESL operons of Bacillus subtilis are preceded by a potential sigma 43 promoter sequence (recognized by the vegetative sigma factor) and by an inverted repeat (IR) consisting of 9 bp separated by a 9-bp spacer. Since this IR has been found in many bacterial species, we suspected that it might be involved in heat shock regulation. In order to test this hypothesis, three different mutational alterations of three bases were introduced within the IR preceding the dnaK operon. These mutations were crossed into the chromosome of B. subtilis, and expression of the dnaK and of the unlinked groESL operons was studied. The dnaK operon exhibited increased expression at low temperature and a reduction in the stimulation after temperature upshift. Furthermore, these mutations reduced expression of the groESL operon at low temperature by 50% but did not interfere with stimulation after heat shock. These experiments show that the IR acts as a negative cis element of the dnaK operon. This conclusion was strengthened by the observation that the IR reduced expression of two different transcriptional fusions significantly after its insertion between the promoter and the reporter gene. Since this IR has been described in many bacterial species as preceding only genes of the dnaK and groESL operons, both encoding molecular chaperones (39 cases are documented so far), we designated this heat shock element CIRCE (controlling IR of chaperone expression). Furthermore, we suggest that this novel mechanism is more widespread among eubacteria than the regulation mechanism described for Escherichia coli and has a more ancient origin.

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Selected References

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