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Mol Gen Genet. 1990 Dec;224(3):421-30.

Characterization of three different nitrogen-regulated promoter regions for the expression of glnB and glnA in Azospirillum brasilense.

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  • 1Unité de Physiologie Cellulaire and CNRS URA 1300, Département des Biotechnologies, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France.


The complete nucleotide sequence of the open reading frame (ORF) located upstream of the glnA structural gene for glutamine synthetase (GS) in Azospirillum brasilense Sp7 was determined. This ORF, which codes for a 12 kDa protein, was identified as glnB, the structural gene for the PII protein, a component of the adenylylation cascade involved in the regulation of GS activity in some gram-negative bacteria. Transcription analysis and mRNA mapping of glnB and glnA of A. brasilense was performed with bacteria grown under different physiological conditions. The glnA gene can be transcribed either as a glnB-A mRNA of 2.4 kb or as a glnA mRNA of 1.5 kb. Differential expression of the two mRNAs was found to depend on the nitrogen source. The glnB-A mRNA was the major transcript under nitrogen fixation conditions, while the synthesis of the glnA mRNA was almost completely abolished. The glnA mRNA was predominantly produced in NH4(+)-containing medium. Transcription start site analysis revealed the presence of three different types of nitrogen-regulated promoters. GlnB-A mRNA was transcribed selectively from tandem promoters. One of them is similar to the NtrA-dependent promoter and the other to the Escherichia coli sigma 70 promoter. The synthesis of glnA mRNA was regulated by a promoter, which was repressed (or non-activated) only under conditions of nitrogen fixation, when moleuclar nitrogen was the sole nitrogen source. The transcriptional initiation site in front of glnA is not preceded by a canonical E. coli sigma 70 promoter. A sequence reminiscent of the NtrA-dependent promoter consensus, except for a fundamental mismatch, was found at positions -33 to -21. This sequence overlapped a putative "weak" NtrC-binding site, similar to those identified in enteric bacteria. From these results, it is postulated that glnA mRNA is controlled by a novel type of nitrogen-regulated promoter.

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