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J Bacteriol. 1992 Apr; 174(8): 2659–2669.
PMCID: PMC205906

Nucleotide sequence of the Escherichia coli cad operon: a system for neutralization of low extracellular pH.


Lysine decarboxylase of Escherichia coli has been the subject of enzymological studies, and the gene encoding lysine decarboxylase (cadA) and a regulatory gene (cadR) have been mapped. This enzyme is induced at low pH in the presence of lysine and achieves maximal level under anaerobic conditions. The induction of lysine decarboxylase increases the pH of the extracellular medium and provides a distinctive marker in tests of clinical strains. We report the sequence of the cad operon encoding lysine decarboxylase, a protein of 715 amino acids, and another protein, CadB, of 444 amino acids. The amino acid sequence of lysine decarboxylase showed high homology to that of the lysine decarboxylase of Hafnia alvei with less homology to the sequence of speC, which encodes the biosynthetic ornithine decarboxylase of E. coli. The cadA and cadB genes were separately cloned and placed under the control of lac and tac promoters, respectively, to facilitate independent study of their physiological effects. The cadB gene product had a mobility characteristic of a smaller protein on protein gels, analogous to that found for some other membrane proteins. The CadB sequence showed homology to that of ArcD of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, encoding an arginine/ornithine antiporter. Excretion studies of various strains, the coinduction of cadB and cadA, and the attractive physiological role for an antiport system led to a model for the coupled action of cadA and cadB in uptake of lysine, the reduction of H+ concentration, and excretion of cadaverine.

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