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J Bacteriol. 2002 Oct;184(19):5251-60.

FleQ, the major flagellar gene regulator in Pseudomonas aeruginosa, binds to enhancer sites located either upstream or atypically downstream of the RpoN binding site.

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  • 1Department of Medicine/Infectious Diseases, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32610, USA.


In Pseudomonas aeruginosa, flagellar genes are regulated in a cascade headed by FleQ, an NtrC/NifA-type activator. FleQ and RpoN positively regulate expression of flhA, fliE, fliL, and fleSR genes, among others. Direct interaction of FleQ with flhA, fliE, fliL, and fleSR promoters was demonstrated by gel shift assay, along with experiments to conclusively determine the specificity of its binding. DNase I footprinting was performed to determine the FleQ binding sites on flhA, fliE, fliL, and fleSR promoters. No sequence conservation among these binding sites was observed. Primer extension analysis revealed the transcription start sites (TSSs) to be localized above the FleQ binding sites in flhA, fliE, and fliL promoters. Analysis of the above data revealed FleQ binding to be in the leader sequence of these promoters, whereas FleQ binding was 67 bp upstream of the TSS in the fleSR promoter. Mutagenesis of the FleQ binding site in the flhA promoter confirmed its functionality in vivo. Deletion of the flhA promoter upstream of the RNA polymerase binding site did not result in a significant loss of promoter activity. These results point to two modes of regulation by an NtrC-type regulator in the flagellar hierarchy in P. aeruginosa, the first being the typical model of activation from a distance via looping in the fleSR promoter and the second involving flhA, fliE, and fliL promoters, where FleQ binds in the downstream vicinity of the promoter and activates transcription without looping.

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