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Microbiol Rev. 1992 Mar;56(1):195-228.

Gene regulation of plasmid- and chromosome-determined inorganic ion transport in bacteria.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago 60680.


Regulation of chromosomally determined nutrient cation and anion uptake systems shows important similarities to regulation of plasmid-determined toxic ion resistance systems that mediate the outward transport of deleterious ions. Chromosomally determined transport systems result in accumulation of K+, Mg2+, Fe3+, Mn2+, PO4(3-), SO4(2-), and additional trace nutrients, while bacterial plasmids harbor highly specific resistance systems for AsO2-, AsO4(3-), CrO4(2-), Cd2+, Co2+, Cu2+, Hg2+, Ni2+, SbO2-, TeO3(2-), Zn2+, and other toxic ions. To study the regulation of these systems, we need to define both the trans-acting regulatory proteins and the cis-acting target operator DNA regions for the proteins. The regulation of gene expression for K+ and PO4(3-) transport systems involves two-component sensor-effector pairs of proteins. The first protein responds to an extracellular ionic (or related) signal and then transmits the signal to an intracellular DNA-binding protein. Regulation of Fe3+ transport utilizes the single iron-binding and DNA-binding protein Fur. The MerR regulatory protein for mercury resistance both represses and activates transcription. The ArsR regulatory protein functions as a repressor for the arsenic and antimony(III) efflux system. Although the predicted cadR regulatory gene has not been identified, cadmium, lead, bismuth, zinc, and cobalt induce this system in a carefully regulated manner from a single mRNA start site. The cadA Cd2+ resistance determinant encodes an E1(1)-1E2-class efflux ATPase (consisting of two polypeptides, rather than the one earlier identified). Cadmium resistance is also conferred by the czc system (which confers resistances to zinc and cobalt in Alcaligenes species) via a complex efflux pump consisting of four polypeptides. These two cadmium efflux systems are not otherwise related. For chromate resistance, reduced cellular accumulation is again the resistance mechanism, but the regulatory components are not identified. For other toxic heavy metals (with few exceptions), there exist specific plasmid resistances that remain relatively terra incognita for future exploration of bioinorganic molecular genetics and gene regulation.

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