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J Bacteriol. 2010 Jul;192(13):3311-20. doi: 10.1128/JB.00278-10. Epub 2010 Apr 30.

RNA processing of nitrogenase transcripts in the cyanobacterium Anabaena variabilis.

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University of Missouri-St. Louis, Department of Biology, Research 223, St. Louis, MO 63121, USA.


Little is known about the regulation of nitrogenase genes in cyanobacteria. Transcription of the nifH1 and vnfH genes, encoding dinitrogenase reductases for the heterocyst-specific Mo-nitrogenase and the alternative V-nitrogenase, respectively, was studied by using a lacZ reporter. Despite evidence for a transcription start site just upstream of nifH1 and vnfH, promoter fragments that included these start sites did not drive the transcription of lacZ and, for nifH1, did not drive the expression of nifHDK1. Further analysis using larger regions upstream of nifH1 indicated that a promoter within nifU1 and a promoter upstream of nifB1 both contributed to expression of nifHDK1, with the nifB1 promoter contributing to most of the expression. Similarly, while the region upstream of vnfH, containing the putative transcription start site, did not drive expression of lacZ, the region that included the promoter for the upstream gene, ava4055, did. Characterization of the previously reported nifH1 and vnfH transcriptional start sites by 5'RACE (5' rapid amplification of cDNA ends) revealed that these 5' ends resulted from processing of larger transcripts rather than by de novo transcription initiation. The 5' positions of both the vnfH and nifH1 transcripts lie at the base of a stem-loop structure that may serve to stabilize the nifHDK1 and vnfH specific transcripts compared to the transcripts for other genes in the operons providing the proper stoichiometry for the Nif proteins for nitrogenase synthesis.

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