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J Bacteriol. 1994 Nov;176(21):6688-96.

Analysis of promoters controlled by the putative sigma factor AlgU regulating conversion to mucoidy in Pseudomonas aeruginosa: relationship to sigma E and stress response.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, 78284-7758.


Alginate overproducition by mucoid Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a critical pathogenic determinant expressed by this organism during chronic infections in cystic fibrosis. Conversion to mucoidy and a subsequent loss of mucoid character can occur via different mutations in the algU mucA mucB gene cluster. The algU gene encodes a 22.2-kDa putative alternative sigma factor required for expression of the critical alginate biosynthetic gene algD. In this work, algU transcription was studied by S1 nuclease protection analysis. Transcription from the promoter proximal to the algU coding region was found to be dependent on AlgU. The -35 and -10 sequences of this newly mapped promoter showed strong similarity ot the promoters of two other critical alg genes: algD and algR. The proximal promoter of algR was also shown to depend on algU. Interestingly, the putative -35 and -10 regions of all three promoters displayed striking similarity to the consensus sequence of the sigma E-dependent promoters in Escherichia coli and Salmonella typhimurium. This 24-kDa sigma factor, controlling genes participating in resistance to high temperatures and oxidative stress, has been previously biochemically characterized, but the gene for sigma E remained unidentified. To examine whether AlgU is related to sigma E, the effect of algU inactivation on the sensitivity of P. aeruginosa to killing by heat and reactive oxygen intermediates was tested. Two isogenic pairs of algU+ and algU mutant strains were compared. The algU mutants, irrespective of the mucoid status of the parental strains, displayed increased sensitivity to killing by paraquat, known to generate intracellular superoxide radicals, and heat. Further lgobal homology searches revealed the presence of a previously unrecognized E. coli gene with the predicted gene product showing a striking 66% identity to AlgU. The corresponding gene from S. typhimurium was cloned and sequenced, and it is displayed one amino acid substitution relative to its E. coli equivalent. AlgU and its close homologs in E. coli and S. typhimurium may be functionally related.

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