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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2000 Nov;66(11):4972-8.

A novel selenite- and tellurite-inducible gene in Escherichia coli.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec H3A 2B4, Canada.


Selenium is both an essential and a toxic trace element, and the range of concentrations between the two is extremely narrow. Although tellurium is not essential and is only rarely found in the environment, it is considered to be extremely toxic. Several hypotheses have been proposed to account for the toxic effects of selenite and tellurite. However, these potential mechanisms have yet to be fully substantiated. Through screening of an Escherichia coli luxAB transcriptional gene fusion library, we identified a clone whose luminescence increased in the presence of increasing concentrations of sodium selenite or sodium tellurite. Cloning and sequencing of the luxAB junction revealed that the fusion had occurred in a previously uncharacterized open reading frame, termed o393 or yhfC, which we have now designated gutS, for gene up-regulated by tellurite and selenite. Transcription from gutS in the presence of selenite or tellurite was confirmed by RNA dot blot analysis. In vivo expression of the GutS polypeptide, using the pET expression system, revealed a polypeptide of approximately 43 kDa, in good agreement with its predicted molecular mass. Although the function of GutS remains to be elucidated, homology searches as well as protein motif and secondary-structure analyses have provided clues which may implicate GutS in transport in response to selenite and tellurite.

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