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Nat Rev Microbiol. 2005 Feb;3(2):105-18.

Promoters in the environment: transcriptional regulation in its natural context.

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Centro Nacional de Biotecnología, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Campus de Cantoblanco, 28049 Madrid, Spain.


Transcriptional activation of many bacterial promoters in their natural environment is not a simple on/off decision. The expression of cognate genes is integrated in layers of iterative regulatory networks that ensure the performance not only of the whole cell, but also of the bacterial population, and even the microbial community, in a changing environment. Unlike in vitro systems, where transcription initiation can be recreated with a handful of essential components, in vivo, promoters must process various physicochemical and metabolic signals to determine their output. This helps to achieve optimal bacterial fitness in extremely competitive niches. Promoters therefore merge specific responses to distinct signals with inclusive reactions to more general environmental changes.

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