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J Bacteriol. Jul 1987; 169(7): 3001–3006.
PMCID: PMC212340

Mu d-directed lacZ fusions regulated by low pH in Escherichia coli.


Methods were devised to isolate strains of Escherichia coli containing Mu d (lacZ Kmr) operon fusions regulated by external pH and by internal pH. External acid-inducible fusions (exa) were detected by plating a Mu d fusion pool on Luria broth with 5-bromo-4-chloro-3-indolyl-beta-D-galactoside, buffered at pH 7.4, and then replica plating on the same medium buffered at pH 5.5. Two exa strains showed induction by external acidification, up to 800-fold and 90-fold. Induction of both fusions was maximal at pH 5.6 and minimal over pH 7.0 to 8.3. There was no induction by membrane-permeable weak acids which depress internal pH at constant external pH. Anaerobiosis increased the steady-state level of transcription of exa-1 5-fold and of exa-2 2.5-fold at low external pH. Internal acid-inducible fusions (ina) were detected by plating a Mu d fusion pool on MacConkey medium, pH 6.8, and then replica plating with 15 mM benzoate. Two ina strains showed 10-fold induction by 20 mM benzoate at external pH 7.0. Similar results were obtained with other weak acids; their relative potency (salicylate greater than benzoate greater than dimethoxazoledinedione) was consistent with their relative ability to depress internal pH. In the absence of a weak acid, external pH had almost no effect over the pH range 5.5 to 8.0. Anaerobiosis did not affect ina induction. To our knowledge, this is the first report of E. coli genes induced specifically by internal but not external acidification and the first report of gene fusions induced by external acidification but not by weak acids.

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