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Genes Dev. 1994 Aug 1;8(15):1839-52.

A sigma 54 transcriptional activator also functions as a pole-specific repressor in Caulobacter.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, Los Angeles 90024.


The differential localization of proteins in the Caulobacter predivisional cell leads to the formation of two distinct progeny cells: a motile swarmer cell and a sessile stalked cell. Pole-specific transcription in the predivisional cell is one mechanism responsible for protein localization. Here we show that the sigma 54 transcriptional activator FlbD, which activates swarmer pole-specific transcription of a subset of late flagellar genes, is also capable of functioning as a pole-specific repressor of the early flagellar fliF operon. DNase I footprinting and methylation interference assays indicate that FlbD binds to regions of the fliF promoter at regions that would be likely to interfere with the binding of RNA polymerase. A mutation that abolishes FlbD binding results in up to a fourfold increase in fliF promoter expression. This mutation alters both the spatial and temporal pattern of fliF expression resulting in the inappropriate expression of the fliF operon in the swarmer pole of the predivisional cell. These results demonstrate that FlbD represses early flagellar gene expression in the swarmer pole of the Caulobacter predivisional cell. This is the first instance in which a protein specifically involved in pole-specific repression has been identified in Caulobacter. The restriction of FlbD activity to the swarmer pole accomplishes two regulatory missions by simultaneously activating late flagellar gene expression and repressing early flagellar genes.

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