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Mol Microbiol. 2006 Jun;60(5):1205-17.

A protein Ser/Thr kinase cascade negatively regulates the DNA-binding activity of MrpC, a smaller form of which may be necessary for the Myxococcus xanthus development.

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Department of Biochemistry, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Piscataway, NJ 08854, USA.


The developmental process of Myxococcus xanthus is achieved by the expression of a specific set of genes under the influence of developmental signals. MrpC is a member of the CRP family of transcription regulators, essential for fruA expression during development. The Pkn8-Pkn14 protein kinase cascade negatively regulates mrpC expression (H. Nariya and S. Inouye, 2005. Mol Microbiol 58: 367-379). Elevated levels of mrpC in pkn8 and pkn14 deletion strains (Deltapkn8 and Deltapkn14) induce untimely FruA production during vegetative growth resulting in significantly faster fruiting body development. mrpC expression is presumably activated by MrpA and MrpB which belong to a two-component His-Asp phosphorelay system and is proposed to require MrpC on the basis of the genetic analysis. In the present study, we demonstrate that MrpC binds to at least eight sites in the upstream region of its promoter. Based on analysis of MrpC binding sites in the mrpC and fruA promoter regions, there are two types of MrpC-specific binding sequences. Importantly, MrpC-binding activity was greatly reduced upon its phosphorylation by Pkn14. MrpC2, a transcription activator for fruA expression, lacks the N-terminal 25 residues of MrpC and exhibited four- and eightfold greater binding activity to the mrpC and fruA promoter regions respectively. Pkn14 was not able to phosphorylate MrpC2 and phosphorylates MrpC at Thr residue(s), thus Thr-21 and/or Thr-22 is (are) the likely site(s) of MrpC phosphorylation. MrpC2 was not detected in a lonD mutant in which fruA expression is low. Thus, the LonD protease essential for development may play an important role for the activation of MrpC-binding activity through its proteolytic processing to MrpC2, required for developmental progression. MrpC2, only detectable during development in DZF1, was present at high levels during vegetative growth in Deltapkn8 and Deltapkn14, thus MrpC phosphorylation may inhibit its proteolytic processing. Based on these results, we propose a mechanism by which two transcription factors essential to development, MrpC and FruA, are regulated during the M. xanthus life cycle.

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