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Mol Microbiol. 2001 Jun;40(5):1227-39.

Pleiotropic transcriptional repressor CodY senses the intracellular pool of branched-chain amino acids in Lactococcus lactis.

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Laboratoire de Génétique Microbienne, Institut National de Recherches Agronomiques, 78352 Jouy-en-Josas cedex, France.


Proteolysis is essential for supplying Lactococcus lactis with amino acids during growth in milk. Expression of the major components of the L. lactis proteolytic system, including the cell wall proteinase (PrtP), the oligopeptide transport system (Opp) and at least four intracellular peptidases (PepO1, PepN, PepC, PepDA2), was shown previously to be controlled negatively by a rich nitrogen source. The transcription of prtP, opp-pepO1, pepN and pepC genes is regulated by dipeptides in the medium. Random insertion mutants derepressed for nitrogen control in the expression of the oligopeptide transport system were isolated using an opp-lacZ fusion. A third of the mutants were targeted in the same locus. The product of the inactivated gene shared 48% identity with CodY from Bacillus subtilis, a pleiotropic repressor of the dipeptide permease operon (dpp) and several genes including genes involved in amino acid degradation and competence induction. The signal controlling CodY-dependent repression was searched for by analysing the response of the opp-lux fusion to the addition of 67 dipeptides with different amino acid compositions. Full correlation was found between the dipeptide content in branched-chain amino acids (BCAA; isoleucine, leucine or valine) and their ability to mediate the repression of opp-pepO1 expression. The repressive effect resulting from specific regulatory dipeptides was abolished in L. lactis mutants affected in terms of their transport or degradation into amino acids, showing that the signal was dependent on the BCAA pool in the cell. Lastly, the repression of opp-pepO1 expression was stronger in a mutant unable to degrade BCAAs, underlining the central role of BCAAs as a signal for CodY activity. This pattern of regulation suggests that, in L. lactis and possibly other Gram-positive bacteria, CodY is a pleiotropic repressor sensing nutritional supply as a function of the BCAA pool in the cell.

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