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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Mar 28;97(7):3538-43.

The RheA repressor is the thermosensor of the HSP18 heat shock response in Streptomyces albus.

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  • 1Unité de Biochimie Microbienne, Institut Pasteur, 25, rue du Docteur Roux, 75724 Paris Cedex 15, France.


Microorganisms have mechanisms to sense their environment and rapidly adapt to survive changes in conditions. In Streptomyces albus, various transcriptional repressors mediate the induction of heat shock genes. The RheA repressor regulates the synthesis of HSP18, a small heat shock protein, which plays a role in thermotolerance. The RheA protein was purified to determine how it responds rapidly to temperature. Gel retardation assays and footprinting experiments identified the specific target of RheA as an inverted repeat (TGTCATC 5N GATGACA) located in Phsp18, PrheA which is the common promoter region of the divergon. Gel retardation assays detected RheA-complexes formed with the hsp18-rheA promoters. The complexes did not form at higher temperature. In vitro transcription experiments showed that RheA is an autoregulatory protein and that its activity is inhibited by high temperature. The temperature-induced derepression by RheA is reversible. Dichroism circular spectroscopy revealed a reversible change of RheA conformation in relation with the temperature that could represent a transition between an active and an inactive form. Our experiments demonstrate that RheA acts as a cellular thermometer in hsp18 regulation.

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