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Mol Microbiol. 2001 May;40(3):700-7.

Competence development by Haemophilus influenzae is regulated by the availability of nucleic acid precursors.

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Departments of Zoology and Chemistry, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.


DNA uptake by naturally competent bacteria provides cells with both genetic information and nucleotides. In Haemophilus influenzae, competence development requires both cAMP and an unidentified signal arising under starvation conditions. To investigate this signal, competence induction was examined in media supplemented with nucleic acid precursors. The addition of physiological levels of AMP and GMP reduced competence 200-fold and prevented the normal competence-induced transcription of the essential competence genes comA and rec-2. The rich medium normally used for growth allows only limited competence. Capillary electrophoresis revealed only a subinhibitory amount of AMP and no detectable GMP, and the addition of AMP or GMP to this medium also reduced competence 20- to 100-fold. Neither a functional stringent response system nor a functional phosphoenolpyruvate:glycose phosphotransferase system (PTS) was found to be required for purine-mediated repression. Added cAMP partially restored both transcription of competence genes and competence development, suggesting that purines may reduce the response to cAMP. Potential binding sites for the PurR repressor were identified in several competence genes, suggesting that competence is part of the PUR regulon. These observations are consistent with models of competence regulation, in which depleted purine pools signal the need for nucleotides, and support the hypothesis that competence evolved primarily for nucleotide acquisition.

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