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Mol Genet Genomics. 2004 Oct;272(3):275-89. Epub 2004 Sep 9.

Wide-range transcriptional modulating effect of ntrR under microaerobiosis in Sinorhizobium meliloti.

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Laboratory of Functional Genomics, Biological Research Center, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, P.O. Box 521, 6701 Szeged, Hungary.


A mutation in the second gene in the ntrPR operon results in increased expression of nodulation (nod) and nitrogen fixation (nif) genes in Sinorhizobium meliloti. Since this pleiotropic effect is particularly pronounced in the presence of external combined nitrogen, a nitrogen regulatory function has been suggested for NtrR. To identify the complete set of protein-coding genes influenced by loss of ntrR function, microarray hybridizations were carried out to compare transcript levels in the wild type and mutant strains grown under aerobic and microaerobic conditions. Of the 6207 genes examined, representing the entire genome of S. meliloti, 7% exhibited altered expression: 4.5% of the genes are affected under oxic, 2.5% under microoxic conditions. 0.4% of all the genes are affected under both oxygen concentrations. A microoxic environment is required for the induction of genes related to symbiotic functions but results in the down-regulation of other (e.g. metabolic) functions. When the alterations in transcription levels at low oxygen concentration in the mutant strain were compared to those of the wild type, a modulating effect of the ntrR mutation was observed. For example, symbiotic nif/fix genes were induced in both strains, but the level of induction was higher in the ntrR mutant. In contrast, genes related to transcription/translation functions were down-regulated in both strains, and the effect was greater in the wild-type strain than in the ntrR mutant. A relatively wide range of functions was affected by this modulating influence, suggesting that ntrR is not a nitrogen regulatory gene. Since genes encoding various unrelated functions were affected, we propose that NtrR may either interfere with general regulatory mechanisms, such as phosphorylation/dephosphorylation, or may influence RNA stability.

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