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Mol Microbiol. 2000 Mar;35(5):1235-43.

Rapid inactivation of the Escherichia coli Kdp K+ uptake system by high potassium concentrations.

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Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Aberdeen, Institute of Medical Science, Foresterhill, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD, UK.


The Kdp K+ uptake system of Escherichia coli is induced by limitation for K+ and/or high osmolarity. In the present study, the regulation of the activity of the Kdp system has been investigated in E. coli mutants possessing only the Kdp system as the mechanism of K+ accumulation. Cells grown in the presence of low K+ (0.1-1 mM) exhibit normal growth. However, growth inhibition results from exposure of cells to moderate levels of external K+ (> 5 mM). Measurement of the cytoplasmic pH, of K+ pools and of transport via the Kdp system demonstrates that the Kdp system is rapidly and irreversibly inhibited by moderate external K+. Concentrations of K+ greater than 2 mM are sufficient to cause inhibition of Kdp. At pH 6, this results in rapid lowering of the capacity for pH homeostasis, but at pH 7 the intracellular pH is unaffected. Parallel analysis of the expression of the Kdp system in a Kdp+/kdpFABC-lacZ strain shows that levels of K+ that are sufficient to inhibit Kdp activity also repress expression. As a result, growth inhibition of strains solely possessing Kdp arises jointly from inhibition of Kdp activity and repression of Kdp gene expression. These data identify an important aspect of the regulation of potassium transport via the Kdp system and also provide support for a model of regulation of Kdp expression via at least two mechanisms: sensing of both turgor and external K+ concentration.

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