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Curr Microbiol. 2004 Feb;48(2):145-52.

Identification of a second flagellin gene and functional characterization of a sigma70-like promoter upstream of a Leptospira borgpetersenii flaB gene.

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Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Animal Diseases Research Institute, 3851 Fallowfield Road, Nepean, Ontario, Canada.


Leptospira borgpetersenii, one of the causative agents of leptospirosis in both animals and humans, is a bacterial pathogen with characteristic motility that is mediated by the rotation of two periplasmic flagella (PF). The flaB gene coding for a core polypeptide subunit of PF was previously characterized by sequence analysis of its open reading frame (ORF) (M. Lin, J Biochem Mol Biol Biophys 2:181-187, 1999). The present study was undertaken to isolate and clone the uncharacterized sequence upstream of the flaB gene by using a PCR-based genome walking procedure. This has resulted in a 1470-bp genomic DNA sequence in which an 846-bp ORF coding for a 281-amino acid polypeptide (31.3 kDa) is identified 455 bp upstream from the flaB start codon. The encoded protein exhibits 72% amino acid identity to the deduced FlaB protein sequence of L. borgpetersenii and a high degree of sequence homology to the FlaB proteins of other spirochaetes. This has demonstrated for the first time that a second flaB gene homolog is present in a Leptospira species. The newly identified gene is designated flaB1, and the previously cloned flaB renamed flaB2. Within the intergenic sequence between flaB1 and flaB2, a potential stem-loop structure (12-bp inverted repeats) was identified 25 bp downstream of the flaB1 stop codon; this could serve as a transcription terminator for the flaB1 mRNA. Three E. coli-like promoter regions (I, II, and III) for binding Esigma(70), a regulatory sequence uncommonly found in flagellar genes, were predicted upstream of the flaB2 ORF. Only promoter region II contains a promoter that is functional in E. coli, as revealed at phenotypic and transcriptional levels by its capability of directing the expression of the chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) gene in the promoter probe vector pKK232-8. These observations may suggest that flaB1 and flaB2 are transcribed separately and do not form a transcriptional operon controlled by a single promoter.

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