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PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e50562. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0050562. Epub 2012 Nov 30.

Genome context as a predictive tool for identifying regulatory targets of the TetR family transcriptional regulators.

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Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.


TetR family transcriptional regulators (TFRs) are found in most bacteria and archea. Most of the family members that have been investigated to date are repressors of their target genes, and the majority of these, like the well-characterized protein TetR, regulate genes that encode transmembrane efflux pumps. In many cases repression by TFR proteins is reversed through the direct binding of a small-molecule ligand. The number of TFRs in the public database has grown rapidly as a result of genome sequencing and there are now thousands of family members; however virtually nothing is known about the biology and biochemistry they regulate. Generally applicable methods for predicting their regulatory targets would assist efforts to characterize the family. Here, we investigate chromosomal context of 372 TFRs from three Streptomyces species. We find that the majority (250 TFRs) are transcribed divergently from one neighboring gene, as is the case for TetR and its target tetA. We explore predicted target gene product identity and intergenic separation to see which either correlates with a direct regulatory relationship. While intergenic separation is a critical factor in regulatory prediction the identity of the putative target gene product is not. Our data suggest that those TFRs that are <200 bp from their divergently oriented neighbors are most likely to regulate them. These target genes include membrane proteins (26% of which 22% are probable membrane-associated pumps), enzymes (60%), other proteins such as transcriptional regulators (1%), and proteins having no predictive sequence motifs (13%). In addition to establishing a solid foundation for identifying targets for TFRs of unknown function, our analysis demonstrates a much greater diversity of TFR-regulated biochemical functions.

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