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Mol Gen Genet. 1990 Oct;224(1):81-90.

The osmZ (bglY) gene encodes the DNA-binding protein H-NS (H1a), a component of the Escherichia coli K12 nucleoid.

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Department of Biology, University of Konstanz, Federal Republic of Germany.


A class of trans-acting mutations, which alter the osmoregulated expression of the Escherichia coli proU operon, maps at 27 min on the chromosome in a locus we have called osmZ. Mutations in osmZ are allelic to bglY, pilG and virR, affect gene expression, increase the frequency of the site-specific DNA inversion mediating fimbrial phase variation, stimulate the formation of deletions, and influence in vivo supercoiling of reporter plasmids. We have cloned the osmZ+ gene, mapped it at 1307 kb of the E. coli restriction map, identified its gene product as a 16 kDa protein, and determined the nucleotide sequence of the osmZ+ gene. The deduced amino acid sequence for OsmZ predicts a protein of 137 amino acid residues with a calculated molecular weight of 15,530. The primary sequence of OsmZ is identical to that of H-NS (H1a), a DNA-binding protein that affects DNA topology and is known to be associated with the bacterial nucleoid. Thus, osmZ is the structural gene for the H-NS (H1a) protein. The nucleotide sequence of osmZ is almost identical to that of hns; however, hns was incorrectly located at 6.1 min on the E. coli linkage map. Increased osmZ gene dosage leads to cell filament formation, altered gene expression, and reduced frequency of fimbrial phase variation. Our results suggest that the nucleoid-associated DNA-binding protein H-NS (H1a) plays a critical role in gene expression and in determining the structure of the genetic material.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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