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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Apr 6;101(14):4848-53. Epub 2004 Mar 29.

HetR homodimer is a DNA-binding protein required for heterocyst differentiation, and the DNA-binding activity is inhibited by PatS.

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  • 1State Key Laboratory of Genetic Engineering, College of Life Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China.


HetR plays a key role in regulation of heterocyst differentiation. When the Cys-48 residue of the HetR from Anabaena sp. PCC 7120 was replaced with an Ala residue, the mutant HetR (HetR(C48A)) could not dimerize, indicating that HetR forms a homodimer through a disulfide bond. The Anabaena strain C48, containing the hetRc48a gene, could not produce HetR homodimer and failed to form heterocyst. We show that HetR is a DNA-binding protein and that its homodimerization is required for the DNA binding. HetR binds the promoter regions of hetR, hepA, and patS, suggesting a direct control of the expression of these genes by HetR. We present evidence that shows that the up-regulation of patS and hetR depends on DNA binding by HetR dimer. The pentapeptide RGSGR, which is present at the C terminus of PatS and blocks heterocyst formation, inhibits the DNA binding of HetR and prevents hetR up-regulation.

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