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Microbiology. 2006 Jul;152(Pt 7):1969-79.

Molecular characterization of a conserved archaeal copper resistance (cop) gene cluster and its copper-responsive regulator in Sulfolobus solfataricus P2.

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Laboratory of Microbiology, Wageningen University, Hesselink van Suchtelenweg 4, The Netherlands.


Using a comparative genomics approach, a copper resistance gene cluster has been identified in multiple archaeal genomes. The cop cluster is predicted to encode a metallochaperone (CopM), a P-type copper-exporting ATPase (CopA) and a novel, archaea-specific transcriptional regulator (CopT) which might control the expression of the cop genes. Sequence analysis revealed that CopT has an N-terminal DNA-binding helix-turn-helix domain and a C-terminal TRASH domain; TRASH is a novel domain which has recently been proposed to be uniquely involved in metal-binding in sensors, transporters and trafficking proteins in prokaryotes. The present study describes the molecular characterization of the cop gene cluster in the thermoacidophilic crenarchaeon Sulfolobus solfataricus. The polycistronic copMA transcript was found to accumulate in response to growth-inhibiting copper concentrations, whereas copT transcript abundance appeared to be constitutive. DNA-binding assays revealed that CopT binds to the copMA promoter at multiple sites, both upstream and downstream of the predicted TATA-BRE site. Copper was found to specifically modulate the affinity of DNA binding by CopT. This study describes a copper-responsive operon in archaea, a new family of archaeal DNA-binding proteins, and supports the idea that this domain plays a prominent role in the archaeal copper response. A model is proposed for copper-responsive transcriptional regulation of the copMA gene cluster.

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