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PLoS Genet. 2011 Jun;7(6):e1002106. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002106. Epub 2011 Jun 2.

CorE from Myxococcus xanthus is a copper-dependent RNA polymerase sigma factor.

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  • 1Departamento de Microbiología, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Granada, Granada, Spain.


The dual toxicity/essentiality of copper forces cells to maintain a tightly regulated homeostasis for this metal in all living organisms, from bacteria to humans. Consequently, many genes have previously been reported to participate in copper detoxification in bacteria. Myxococcus xanthus, a prokaryote, encodes many proteins involved in copper homeostasis that are differentially regulated by this metal. A σ factor of the ECF (extracytoplasmic function) family, CorE, has been found to regulate the expression of the multicopper oxidase cuoB, the P1B-type ATPases copA and copB, and a gene encoding a protein with a heavy-metal-associated domain. Characterization of CorE has revealed that it requires copper to bind DNA in vitro. Genes regulated by CorE exhibit a characteristic expression profile, with a peak at 2 h after copper addition. Expression rapidly decreases thereafter to basal levels, although the metal is still present in the medium, indicating that the activity of CorE is modulated by a process of activation and inactivation. The use of monovalent and divalent metals to mimic Cu(I) and Cu(II), respectively, and of additives that favor the formation of the two redox states of this metal, has revealed that CorE is activated by Cu(II) and inactivated by Cu(I). The activation/inactivation properties of CorE reside in a Cys-rich domain located at the C terminus of the protein. Point mutations at these residues have allowed the identification of several Cys involved in the activation and inactivation of CorE. Based on these data, along with comparative genomic studies, a new group of ECF σ factors is proposed, which not only clearly differs mechanistically from the other σ factors so far characterized, but also from other metal regulators.

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