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Virology. 1999 Sep 30;262(2):431-41.

Regulation of bacteriophage lambda development by guanosine 5'-diphosphate-3'-diphosphate.

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Department of Molecular Biology, University of Gdańsk, Kladki 24, Gdańsk, 80-822, Poland.


On infection of its host, Escherichia coli, bacteriophage lambda can follow one of two alternative developmental pathways: lytic or lysogenic. Here we demonstrate that the "lysis-versus-lysogenization" decision is influenced by guanosine tetraphosphate (ppGpp), a nucleotide that is synthesized in E. coli cells in response to amino acid or carbon source starvation. We found that the efficiency of lysogenization is the highest at ppGpp concentrations somewhat higher than the basal level; too low and too high levels of ppGpp result in less efficient lysogenization. Maintenance of the already integrated lambda prophage and phage lytic development were not significantly influenced in the host lacking ppGpp. We found that the level of HflB/FtsH protease, responsible for degradation of the CII protein, an activator of "lysogenic" promoters, depends on ppGpp concentration. The highest levels of HflB/FtsH was found in bacteria lacking ppGpp and in cells bearing increased concentrations of this nucleotide. Using lacZ fusions, we investigated the influence of ppGpp on activities of lambda promoters important at the stage of the lysis-versus-lysogenization decision. We found that each promoter is regulated differentially in response to the abundance of ppGpp. Moreover, our results suggest that the cAMP level may influence ppGpp concentration in cells. The mechanism of the ppGpp-mediated control of lambda development at the stage of the lysis-versus-lysogenization decision may be explained on the basis of differential influence of guanosine tetraphosphate on activities of p(L), p(R), p(E), p(I), and p(aQ) promoters and by dependence of HflB/FtsH protease level on ppGpp concentration.

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