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ISME J. 2010 Jul;4(7):908-21. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2010.24. Epub 2010 Apr 8.

PtrA is required for coordinate regulation of gene expression during phosphate stress in a marine Synechococcus.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK.


Previous microarray analyses have shown a key role for the two-component system PhoBR (SYNW0947, SYNW0948) in the regulation of P transport and metabolism in the marine cyanobacterium Synechococcus sp. WH8102. However, there is some evidence that another regulator, SYNW1019 (PtrA), probably under the control of PhoBR, is involved in the response to P depletion. PtrA is a member of the cAMP receptor protein transcriptional regulator family that shows homology to NtcA, the global nitrogen regulator in cyanobacteria. To define the role of this regulator, we constructed a mutant by insertional inactivation and compared the physiology of wild-type Synechcococcus sp. WH8102 with the ptrA mutant under P-replete and P-stress conditions. In response to P stress the ptrA mutant failed to upregulate phosphatase activity. Microarrays and quantitative RT-PCR indicate that a subset of the Pho regulon is controlled by PtrA, including two phosphatases, a predicted phytase and a gene of unknown function psip1 (SYNW0165), all of which are highly upregulated during P limitation. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays indicate binding of overexpressed PtrA to promoter sequences upstream of the induced genes. This work suggests a two-tiered response to P depletion in this strain, the first being PhoB-dependent induction of high-affinity PO(4) transporters, and the second the PtrA-dependent induction of phosphatases for scavenging organic P. The levels of numerous other transcripts are also directly or indirectly influenced by PtrA, including those involved in cell-surface modification, metal uptake, photosynthesis, stress responses and other metabolic processes, which may indicate a wider role for PtrA in cellular regulation in marine picocyanobacteria.

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