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Mol Microbiol. 2006 Nov;62(3):760-71.

nilR is necessary for co-ordinate repression of Xenorhabdus nematophila mutualism genes.

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Department of Bacteriology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


The bacterial mutualist Xenorhabdus nematophila colonizes a specific region of its nematode host Steinernema carpocapsae. We previously reported the identification of a chromosomal locus encoding three X. nematophila genes of unknown function, nilA, B and C, that are each necessary for colonization. Subsequent work indicated the global regulator Lrp is a repressor of nilC: nilC transcription is elevated in an lrp mutant and Lrp interacts directly with the nilC promoter. In this manuscript, we report the identification of an additional gene, nilR, required for repression of nilC transcription. We show that nilR and lrp mutants also have elevated expression of nilA and nilB, demonstrating that nilA, B and C are co-ordinately regulated. nil gene expression is derepressed most strongly when both nilR and lrp are lacking, suggesting NilR and Lrp synergistically repress nil transcription. NilR contains a helix-turn-helix-type DNA binding domain and likely acts directly at promoters. A comparison of the wild type and nilR proteomes indicates that NilR, unlike Lrp, regulates a small number of genes. Finally, X. nematophila carrying an ectopic copy of nilR colonizes at approximately 60-fold lower levels than the control strain, suggesting that derepression of nil gene expression is necessary for nematode colonization.

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