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Mol Microbiol. 2007 Nov;66(3):685-98. Epub 2007 Sep 24.

Alternate SlyA and H-NS nucleoprotein complexes control hlyE expression in Escherichia coli K-12.

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Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, The University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK.


Haemolysin E is a cytolytic pore-forming toxin found in several Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica strains. Expression of hlyE is repressed by the global regulator H-NS (histone-like nucleoid structuring protein), but can be activated by the regulator SlyA. Expression of a chromosomal hlyE-lacZ fusion in an E. coli slyA mutant was reduced to 60% of the wild-type level confirming a positive role for SlyA. DNase I footprint analysis revealed the presence of two separate SlyA binding sites, one located upstream, the other downstream of the hlyE transcriptional start site. These sites overlap AT-rich H-NS binding sites. Footprint and gel shift data showed that whereas H-NS prevented binding of RNA polymerase (RNAP) at the hlyE promoter (PhlyE), SlyA allowed binding of RNAP, but inhibited binding of H-NS. Accordingly, in vitro transcription analyses showed that addition of SlyA protein relieved H-NS-mediated repression of hlyE. Based on these observations a model for SlyA/H-NS regulation of hlyE expression is proposed in which the relative concentrations of SlyA and H-NS govern the nature of the nucleoprotein complexes formed at PhlyE. When H-NS is dominant RNAP binding is inhibited and hlyE expression is silenced; when SlyA is dominant H-NS binding is inhibited allowing RNAP access to the promoter facilitating hlyE transcription.

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