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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2016 May 31;82(12):3471-3480. doi: 10.1128/AEM.00262-16. Print 2016 Jun 15.

Regulatory Activities of Four ArsR Proteins in Agrobacterium tumefaciens 5A.

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Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana, USA.
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana, USA.
State Key Laboratory of Agricultural Microbiology, College of Life Science and Technology, Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan, People's Republic of China.
Institute of Bioinformatics and Applied Biotechnology, Electronics City Phase I, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana, USA


ArsR is a well-studied transcriptional repressor that regulates microbe-arsenic interactions. Most microorganisms have an arsR gene, but in cases where multiple copies exist, the respective roles or potential functional overlap have not been explored. We examined the repressors encoded by arsR1 and arsR2 (ars1 operon) and by arsR3 and arsR4 (ars2 operon) in Agrobacterium tumefaciens 5A. ArsR1 and ArsR4 are very similar in their primary sequences and diverge phylogenetically from ArsR2 and ArsR3, which are also quite similar to one another. Reporter constructs (lacZ) for arsR1, arsR2, and arsR4 were all inducible by As(III), but expression of arsR3 (monitored by reverse transcriptase PCR) was not influenced by As(III) and appeared to be linked transcriptionally to an upstream lysR-type gene. Experiments using a combination of deletion mutations and additional reporter assays illustrated that the encoded repressors (i) are not all autoregulatory as is typically known for ArsR proteins, (ii) exhibit variable control of each other's encoding genes, and (iii) exert variable control of other genes previously shown to be under the control of ArsR1. Furthermore, ArsR2, ArsR3, and ArsR4 appear to have an activator-like function for some genes otherwise repressed by ArsR1, which deviates from the well-studied repressor role of ArsR proteins. The differential regulatory activities suggest a complex regulatory network not previously observed in ArsR studies. The results indicate that fine-scale ArsR sequence deviations of the reiterated regulatory proteins apparently translate to different regulatory roles.


Given the significance of the ArsR repressor in regulating various aspects of microbe-arsenic interactions, it is important to assess potential regulatory overlap and/or interference when a microorganism carries multiple copies of arsR This study explores this issue and shows that the four arsR genes in A. tumefaciens 5A, associated with two separate ars operons, encode proteins exhibiting various degrees of functional overlap with respect to autoregulation and cross-regulation, as well as control of other functional genes. In some cases, differences in regulatory activity are associated with only limited differences in protein primary structure. The experiments summarized herein also present evidence that ArsR proteins appear to have activator functions, representing novel regulatory activities for ArsR, previously known only to be a repressor.

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