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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Jan 9, 1996; 93(1): 336–341.
PMCID: PMC40233

Control of cell division in Escherichia coli: regulation of transcription of ftsQA involves both rpoS and SdiA-mediated autoinduction.

Abstract

The conditioning of culture medium by the production of growth-regulatory substances is a well-established phenomenon with eukaryotic cells. It has recently been shown that many prokaryotes are also capable of modulating growth, and in some cases sensing cell density, by production of extracellular signaling molecules, thereby allowing single celled prokaryotes to function in some respects as multicellular organisms. As Escherichia coli shifts from exponential growth to stationary growth, many changes occur, including cell division leading to formation of short minicells and expression of numerous genes not expressed in exponential phase. An understanding of the coordination between the morphological changes associated with cell division and the physiological and metabolic changes is of fundamental importance to understanding regulation of the prokaryotic cell cycle. The ftsQA genes, which encode functions required for cell division in E. coli, are regulated by promoters P1 and P2, located upstream of the ftsQ gene. The P1 promoter is rpoS-stimulated and the second, P2, is regulated by a member of the LuxR subfamily of transcriptional activators, SdiA, exhibiting features characteristic of an autoinduction (quorum sensing) mechanism. The activity of SdiA is potentiated by N-acyl-homoserine lactones, which are the autoinducers of luciferase synthesis in luminous marine bacteria as well as of pathogenesis functions in several pathogenic bacteria. A compound(s) produced by E. coli itself during growth in Luria Broth stimulates transcription from P2 in an SdiA-dependent process. Another substance(s) enhances transcription of rpoS and (perhaps indirectly) of ftsQA via promoter P1. It appears that this bimodal control mechanism may comprise a fail-safe system, such that transcription of the ftsQA genes may be properly regulated under a variety of different environmental and physiological conditions.

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