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PLoS One. 2011 Jan 7;6(1):e15972. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0015972.

Unusual regulation of a leaderless operon involved in the catabolism of dimethylsulfoniopropionate in Rhodobacter sphaeroides.

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School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich Research Park, Norwich, United Kingdom.


Rhodobacter sphaeroides strain 2.4.1 is a widely studied bacterium that has recently been shown to cleave the abundant marine anti-stress molecule dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) into acrylate plus gaseous dimethyl sulfide. It does so by using a lyase encoded by dddL, the promoter-distal gene of a three-gene operon, acuR-acuI-dddL. Transcription of the operon was enhanced when cells were pre-grown with the substrate DMSP, but this induction is indirect, and requires the conversion of DMSP to the product acrylate, the bona fide co-inducer. This regulation is mediated by the product of the promoter-proximal gene acuR, a transcriptional regulator in the TetR family. AcuR represses the operon in the absence of acrylate, but this is relieved by the presence of the co-inducer. Another unusual regulatory feature is that the acuR-acuI-dddL mRNA transcript is leaderless, such that acuR lacks a Shine-Dalgarno ribosomal binding site and 5'-UTR, and is translated at a lower level compared to the downstream genes. This regulatory unit may be quite widespread in bacteria, since several other taxonomically diverse lineages have adjacent acuR-like and acuI-like genes; these operons also have no 5' leader sequences or ribosomal binding sites and their predicted cis-acting regulatory sequences resemble those of R. sphaeroides acuR-acuI-dddL.

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