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J Bacteriol. 2012 Apr;194(8):1960-7. doi: 10.1128/JB.06817-11. Epub 2012 Feb 10.

Anaerobic p-coumarate degradation by Rhodopseudomonas palustris and identification of CouR, a MarR repressor protein that binds p-coumaroyl coenzyme A.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA.


The phenylpropanoid p-coumarate and structurally related aromatic compounds are produced in large amounts by green plants and are excellent carbon sources for many soil bacteria. Aerobic bacteria remove the acyl side chain from phenylpropanoids to leave an aromatic aldehyde, which then enters one of several possible central pathways of benzene ring degradation. We investigated the pathway for the anaerobic degradation of p-coumarate by the phototrophic bacterium Rhodopseudomonas palustris and found that it also follows this metabolic logic. We characterized enzymes for the conversion of p-coumarate to p-hydroxybenzaldehyde and acetyl coenzyme A (acetyl-CoA) encoded by the couAB operon. We also identified a MarR family transcriptional regulator that we named CouR. A couR mutant had elevated couAB expression. In addition, His-tagged CouR bound with high affinity to a DNA fragment encompassing the couAB promoter region, and binding was abrogated by the addition of nanomolar quantities of p-coumaroyl-CoA but not by p-coumarate. Footprinting demonstrated binding of CouR to an inverted repeat sequence that overlaps the -10 region of the couAB promoter. Our results provide evidence for binding of a CoA-modified aromatic compound by a MarR family member. Although the MarR family is widely distributed in bacteria and archaea and includes over 12,000 members, ligands have been identified for relatively few family members. Here we provide biochemical evidence for a new category of MarR ligand.

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