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PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e57586. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0057586. Epub 2013 Feb 28.

Cellobiose-mediated gene expression in Streptococcus pneumoniae: a repressor function of the novel GntR-type regulator BguR.

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Department of Molecular Genetics, Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.


The human pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae has the ability to use the carbon- and energy source cellobiose due to the presence of a cellobiose-utilizing gene cluster (cel locus) in its genome. This system is regulated by the cellobiose-dependent transcriptional activator CelR, which has been previously shown to contribute to pneumococcal virulence. To get a broader understanding of the response of S. pneumoniae to cellobiose, we compared the pneumococcal transcriptome during growth on glucose as the main carbon source to that with cellobiose as the main carbon source. The expression of various carbon metabolic genes was altered, including a PTS operon (which we here denote as the bgu operon) that has high similarity with the cel locus. In contrast to the cel locus, the bgu operon is conserved in all sequenced strains of S. pneumoniae, indicating an important physiological function in the lifestyle of pneumococci. We next characterized the transcriptional regulation of the bgu operon in more detail. Its expression was increased in the presence of cellobiose, and decreased in the presence of glucose. A novel GntR-type transcriptional regulator (which we here denote as BguR) was shown to act as a transcriptional repressor of the bgu operon and its repressive effect was relieved in the presence of cellobiose. BguR-dependent repression was demonstrated to be mediated by a 20-bp DNA operator site (5'-AAAAATGTCTAGACAAATTT-3') present in PbguA, as verified by promoter truncation experiments. In conclusion, we have identified a new cellobiose-responsive PTS operon, together with its transcriptional regulator in S. pneumoniae.

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