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Mol Microbiol. 2000 Aug;37(4):964-77.

AmtR, a global repressor in the nitrogen regulation system of Corynebacterium glutamicum.

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Institut für Biochemie der Universität zu Köln, Germany.


The uptake and assimilation of nitrogen sources is effectively regulated in bacteria. In the Gram-negative enterobacterium Escherichia coli, the NtrB/C two-component system is responsible for the activation of transcription of different enzymes and transporters, depending on the nitrogen status of the cell. In this study, we investigated regulation of ammonium uptake in Corynebacterium glutamicum, a Gram-positive soil bacterium closely related to Mycobacterium tuberculosis. As shown by Northern blot hybridizations, regulation occurs on the level of transcription upon nitrogen starvation. In contrast to enterobacteria, a repressor protein is involved in regulation, as revealed by measurements of methylammonium uptake and beta-galactosidase activity in reporter strains. The repressor-encoding gene, designated amtR, was isolated and sequenced. Deletion of amtR led to deregulation of transcription of amt coding for the C. glutamicum (methyl)ammonium uptake system. E. coli extracts from amtR-expressing cells were applied in gel retardation experiments, and binding of AmtR to the amt upstream region was observed. By deletion analyses, a target motif for AmtR binding was identified, and binding of purified AmtR protein to this motif, ATCTATAGN1-4ATAG, was shown. Furthermore, the binding of AmtR to this sequence was proven in vivo using a yeast one-hybrid system. Subsequent studies showed that AmtR not only regulates transcription of the amt gene but also of the amtB-glnK-glnD operon encoding an amt paralogue, the signal transduction protein PII and the uridylyltransferase/uridylyl-removing enzyme, key components of the nitrogen regulatory cascade. In summary, regulation of ammonium uptake and assimilation in the high G+C content Gram-positive bacterium C. glutamicum differs significantly from the mechanism found in the low G+C content Gram-positive model organism Bacillus subtilis and from the paradigm of nitrogen control in the Gram-negative enterobacteria.

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