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BMC Microbiol. 2009 Mar 11;9:54. doi: 10.1186/1471-2180-9-54.

Characterization of the hupSL promoter activity in Nostoc punctiforme ATCC 29133.

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Department of Photochemistry and Molecular Science, The Angström Laboratories, Uppsala University, Box 523, SE-751 20 Uppsala, Sweden.



In cyanobacteria three enzymes are directly involved in the hydrogen metabolism; a nitrogenase that produces molecular hydrogen, H2, as a by-product of nitrogen fixation, an uptake hydrogenase that recaptures H2 and oxidize it, and a bidirectional hydrogenase that can both oxidize and produce H2.Nostoc punctiforme ATCC 29133 is a filamentous dinitrogen fixing cyanobacterium containing a nitrogenase and an uptake hydrogenase but no bidirectional hydrogenase. Generally, little is known about the transcriptional regulation of the cyanobacterial uptake hydrogenases. In this study gel shift assays showed that NtcA has a specific affinity to a region of the hupSL promoter containing a predicted NtcA binding site. The predicted NtcA binding site is centred at 258.5 bp upstream the transcription start point (tsp). To further investigate the hupSL promoter, truncated versions of the hupSL promoter were fused to either gfp or luxAB, encoding the reporter proteins Green Fluorescent Protein and Luciferase, respectively.


Interestingly, all hupsSL promoter deletion constructs showed heterocyst specific expression. Unexpectedly the shortest promoter fragment, a fragment covering 57 bp upstream and 258 bp downstream the tsp, exhibited the highest promoter activity. Deletion of the NtcA binding site neither affected the expression to any larger extent nor the heterocyst specificity.


Obtained data suggest that the hupSL promoter in N. punctiforme is not strictly dependent on the upstream NtcA cis element and that the shortest promoter fragment (-57 to tsp) is enough for a high and heterocyst specific expression of hupSL. This is highly interesting because it indicates that the information that determines heterocyst specific gene expression might be confined to this short sequence or in the downstream untranslated leader sequence.

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